Under-age drinking crackdown called for

Boy drinking beer Young people were more likely to get alcohol from relatives than from a shop, Demos said

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The government should introduce tougher punishments for parents, siblings and friends who buy alcohol for children, left-wing think tank Demos has urged.

It says offenders should do community service or be banned from shops.

Over a four-year period, just 16 people were convicted in the UK of buying alcohol for a child, it added.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies said tackling irresponsible shop promotions and minimum pricing would better tackle the UK's drinking problem.

The official advice from the chief medical officers across the UK is that no children should be given alcohol until they are 16.

They say alcohol should be given to older teenagers only under supervision of a carer or parent and never on more than one day a week.

'Proxy purchasers'

Demos said evidence showed young people were significantly more likely to get alcohol from relatives and older friends than from a shop.

Start Quote

Our research suggests tackling certain high-strength drinks, or just test purchasing shops, is not sufficient - we need a tougher, smarter approach”

End Quote Report author Jonathan Birdwell

On-the-spot fines of £90 can be issued for people who help children buy alcohol, while those convicted of the crime can be fined up to £5,000, according to Demos.

Its Sobering Up report says police should do more to enforce on-the-spot fines and prosecute adults.

Those caught breaking the law in this way should be "named and shamed" on posters by shop counters, it added.

The report said it was "extremely difficult for local shops to identify and act against proxy purchasers".

Report author Jonathan Birdwell said "under-age drunkenness increases alcohol risks in later life".

"Our research suggests tackling certain high-strength drinks, or just test-purchasing shops, is not sufficient - we need a tougher, smarter approach," he added.

"This includes threatening parents who buy alcohol for their children to drink unsupervised with 'social shaming' like community service."

Demos is also recommending "booze borders" where police refuse very drunk people entry into city centres in areas with high levels of alcohol-related crime or health problems.

Minimum pricing

Alcohol education charity Drinkaware "warmly welcomed" the report, saying it supported parents "in their position as positive role models when it comes to alcohol".

"We know from our own research that parents frequently provide alcohol to older children, in a belief that introducing alcohol in the home is a good way to teach young people about responsible drinking," chief executive Elaine Hindal said.

"In fact, contrary to popular belief, evidence shows that young people who start drinking at an early age drink more and more frequently than those who delay their first alcoholic drink."

But Katherine Brown, from the Institute of Alcohol Studies charity, said measures such as community service and naming and shaming were not the answer.

"The real way to tackle to the problem of drinking in the UK is to address the bigger issues, such as pricing, through policies such as minimum unit pricing," she added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The time has come for adults, especially parents, to take responsibility for children and young people. What on earth are we doing to future generations and where on earth are the role models? How are things going to magically get better? It is no good burying our heads in the sand and hoping for the best.Somebody needs to grab hold of the steering wheel and quick. Definitely not governments job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I am afraid nearly all reports say what was wanted by the think tanks in the first place easy to filter in or out what you want.
    In Europe there is no so much of a problem so lets tackle the real issues of binge drinking not a glass of wine with a meal.
    It should be about context of alcohol not about the odd family drink.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Alcohol is just a big part of British culture, for better or for worse. You are labelled as weird if you do not want to try and get drunk. I always felt frustrated as someone who tries hard not to drink (from a family inflicted with alcoholism), I feel like society condones alcohol. We know how dangerous it is, yet it is openly advertised. Drugs are bad, yet everywhere you look there is a beer ad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    This is a country that wants its cake and eat it as well. Blair introduced all day drinking to satisfy his capitalist instincts and please the pub-cos.
    Now suddenly everyone notices that alcohol is a poison and can kill you. Well it always was a poison well before all day drinking was introduced. You cannot get the genie back into the bottle (geddit?)
    Back to pub hours and state run alcohol shops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Many middle class professionals get through a bottle each per evening as normal. Little wonder that their kids pick up the habit thinking this is what they are supposed to do? Going to a dinner party, if you don't drink then you are probably not asked back again, and because you make the other guests look foolish.


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