It says much for the state the UK is in that an established and respected think tank should suggest that the legal age for drinking should be raised to 21 to combat our binge culture.
We have one of the worst alcohol problems in Europe with a fifth of children aged 11 to 15 drinking at least once a week.
It has been claimed we have “lost the plot” as regards the drinking culture that has taken a firm grip on society and as a result columnist Jasper Gerard, writing in Public Policy Research (the journal of The Institute of Public Policy Research), suggests raising the age limit is the only viable and realistic option left open to the Government.
He proposes raising the drinking age to 21 or requiring 18-year-olds to carry smart cards which record how much they have drunk each night and restrict under-21s to three units of alcohol.
The idea is draconian, but Gerard maintains there is no other solution and points to the failure to win the war on drugs as proof that drastic times calls for drastic measures.
He is undoubtedly right in describing the dire times we live in. However, raising the age limit will do little to counteract the culture that has established itself over a lengthy period.
The psyche of those in their teens and even early 20s is often such that the more you say: “No!”, the more some will protest: “Try and stop me.”
Effectively making it illegal to consume alcohol until the age of 21 provides the right amount of mystique and even glamour to ensure the problem won’t go away, but is more likely to get worse.
The UK has lost the plot when it comes to alcohol and arguably so many other issues. Some draconian measures are probably long overdue, but raising the age limit isn’t the right course of action and more than likely never will be.
We need to change attitudes and patterns of behaviour on a much wider scale. We also need to make sure that our health and well-being is not sacrificed for the sake of profits and the success of business.
I tend to agree with Alcohol Concern’s response to raising the age limit. In a statement it said: “There is a sense that the regulatory landscape is lopsided…all happening at a time when alcohol-related harm is rising.
“(This) government is more concerned about making sure the drinks industry operates with as little interference as possible than with seriously grasping the nettle.”
Almost everything in our society at present is done to excess – from consumer spending to celebrity worship (despite what Gordon Brown claims) – and we need to break all those habits to put the brakes on our binge culture.