One of us, always looked more than their 15/16/17 years and managed to purchase some booze for us. This of course is just part of the problem - those however who are 11 to 14 who report 'getting drunk' are not getting their booze in this way. Someone, either an older 'friend' or relative or a dodgy off-license is selling it to them.
I don't think the drinking age of 18 for pubs should be affected, I just think think the age for buying at off-licences should be raised to 21.
There are a number of advantages to this.
1. Pubs trade will be boosted (and now they are smoke free they are probably more healthy than some homes).
2. Drinking in pubs will significantly increase the price of getting drunk for 18 to 21 year olds (there is definitely also an argument for increasing price across the board - I would propose a new tax on off-licence sales only so not to hit the pub trade).
3. 18 to 21 year olds will be more likely to behave (or encouraged to behave) in a licenced establishment and if they don't, can be more easily barred from drinking - landlords can have more control and hopefully refuse to serve those who are the worse for wear.
4. It will be much harder for dodgy off-licences to use the excuse that 16 year olds 'looked old enough'. Because of this, fines could be significantly increased on establishments and individuals that sell to under 18s.
5. 18 year olds could still purchase alcohol - so it won't seem as draconian as a across the board rising of the age or as hypocritical from us oldies stopping youngsters doing what we were doing at their age.
By the way, I notice the Daily Mail managed to sneak in a distorted stats article to support their scare mongering about 24 hour opening - Like all Daily Mail articles it is always worth reading the last paragraph;
"Data collected from 30 police forces from October 2004 to September 2006, including Devon and Cornwall, show no indication of an overall rise in the level of violent offences as a result of the Licensing Act 2003.
"The night-time economy is extremely complex; there is a range of factors and variables that can impact upon levels of crime and disorder."
Which hardly squares with their 'Pub violence has soared by half since 24-hour licensing' headline.