Wednesday 9 November 2016

Lower age limit to reduce binge drinking?

Having criticised Tim Martin a few days ago when he said that the EU is bullying British business, I now find that I agree with his latest pronouncement that we should consider permitting 16 and 17 year olds to buy drinks in pubs. It's not the first time he has made this suggestion; he said much the same in 2007 here.

I've written about this before, most recently on 12 July 2014 when I argued that unsupervised teenage drinking is more likely to lead to binge drinking because under-age drinkers can "get cheap supermarket booze and drink at each other’s homes or in the park, and it’s not ordinary beer: it’s strong cider, lager or cheap vodka. And in an unsupervised environment, they don’t learn how to behave when drinking."

Pointing out that "Pubs have more or less become ghettos now for adults", Tim makes a similar point about unsupervised binge drinking while recognising that lowering the legal age would not on its own be a panacea to the problem; he simply suggests that it may help.

Our age rules in the UK are a bit of a mess. In this country, you can:
  • At 16 get married, have children or join the armed forces.
  • At 17, drive a potentially dangerous vehicle on the roads.
  • At 18, vote in elections and referenda, fight and die for your country.
But you can't buy a drink until you're 18, often subject to age checks until you are 25. Is buying a drink really as dangerous as risking your life in combat that both activities require the same age threshold?

In Scotland, the situation is even more extreme: in the independence referendum, Scottish residents were mature enough to vote for the future of their country at 16, but face compulsory age checks when buying drinks until they're 25. That's what you get when you put nanny state nationalists in charge.

I've little doubt that Tim's call will not be heeded, and will look out for the predictable tut tutting, as in this article by Katy Rice in the Brighton Argus: she refers to drunken staggering in the second sentence and later chucks in the emotive buzzword 'vulnerable'. Interestingly, Ms Rice tweeted this on 6 September: "Girls, what's the worst thing you've done when you were drunk? Tell me your story..."

I've already read suggestions that Tim has said all this with an eye on his sales figures. 


  1. As we've discussed before, in our youth underage drinking was widely tolerated in pubs, but youngsters had to learn how to behave themselves otherwise they'd be out on their ear.

    It's a classic case of unintended consequences that cracking down on underage drinking through proof of age schemes has actually made the problem worse.

  2. We should vote Timbo as PM

    He'd make Britain Great Again!

  3. It's already legal for 16 and 17 year olds to drink beer, cider or wine (not spirits) in a pub, as long as it's with a meal and someone else buys it for them. I've got a theory that the historic rise in the legal drinking age mirrors that of the school leaving age, now also eighteen.

    1. I've always believed that only applied to table-service restaurants, not to bars, although I may be wrong.

      Even so, I doubt whether many pubs would be happy to permit it.


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