When the idea of a split age for the purchase of alcohol was first mooted I thought it was a good idea.
That would allow people to drink in licensed premises when they were 18 but not purchase alcohol to drink elsewhere until they were 20.
The aim is to address the problem of binge drinking and other problems associated with too much alcohol.
But when I thought about it more I realised that splitting the age is treating a symptom not the problem – and the problem isn’t confined to the young.
Teenager Verity Johnson writes:
If we actually want to reduce teenage binge drinking, we need to change what society demands. We need to show that drinking responsibly is the way to go. After all, drinking is going to happen.
Moderating it is the challenge.
National MP Michael Woodhouse has issued a challenge to young people who are advocating for him to vote to leave the purchase age at 18:
Here’s what will definitely get me voting 18/18:
- if young people actively promote the idea getting trashed is dumb, in the same way that smoking or drink-driving is dumb
- that student organisations pass remits promoting moderation, and rules expelling people from organisations (after say a three strikes process) for excessive drinking; messages saying alcohol consumption is normal – excessive consumption isn’t
- messages that the taxpayer is entitled to expect its money given to students is not thrown up against the wall of the Cook.
All of these are very good points but the first doesn’t apply only to young people and the message that excessive consumption isn’t normal needs to be spread far more widely than youth organisations.
A lot of people who should be old enough to know better also get trashed and organisations of older people condone or even encourage excessive drinking.
It’s absolutely no use telling young people to do as we say if older people aren’t doing it too.
Excessive drinking and the problems it causes aren’t acceptable at any age.
Tinkering with the purchase age or price of alcohol won’t change the culture which is the only way to properly address problem drinking.