The Scottish Government is set to raise the legal age of buying alcohol from supermarkets and other off licensed premises from 18 to 21, and raising prices. You can read about it here.
It seems to me that a lot of this proposal stems from the Armadale experiment which, on the face of it was quite succesful. A closer look though, shows that Armadale is a pretty small place, so it was easier to enforce. What the statistics do not show however, is I understand that there was a considerably higher police presence for the duration of the experiment, which will of course mask the real results. Worse still, the rumour mill has suggested that some licensees felt somewhat pressured into taking part. Though I stress that the latter is purely anecdotal.
This new law would only apply to off licensed sales. So those between 18 and 21 could still buy drink in pubs/clubs etc. Just not for consumption elsewhere. Maybe that adds up a bit. After all, some pub owners have suggested that people consume quite a lot of drink at home before going out, so after only a couple of drinks in a pub, they have had way too much and are then staggering out. The pub owner then gets the blame for the state of the customer.
But look at it from another point of view. By the time I was 21, I had done nearly five years military service. According to Kenny Mackaskil though, whilst I could be trusted with a 60 tonne main battle tank, bristling with armaments and computer technology, I couldnt be trusted with a bottle of wine.
Personally, I think its a bit daft to deny people drink from supermarkets, but allow them to drink in bars. I also thinks its naive to focus on the 18-21 year olds. Take a look at the report only published today (pasted below), to see just how ingrained alcohol abuse is in today's society. In some interpretations of this of course it would seem the Scottish Government may have some justification for their plan. For myself however, I think this proposal is a very blunt instrument that is being is deployed to be seen to be doing something, rather than really addressing the root cause.
Drinking in Scotland: Qualitative Insights into Influences, Attitudes and Behaviours
A new research report entitled ‘Drinking in Scotland: Qualitative Insights into Influences, Attitudes and Behaviours’ will be published by NHS Health Scotland on Monday 16 June 2008.
Four communities in Scotland were involved with the research project, which took place between late 2006 and early 2008. Men and women over 18 years participated in the project. The group was made up of people who drink at home, people who drink in their local bars, and bar workers.
This study has provided many insights into drinking in Scotland. The main conclusions include:
• There is no single Scottish drinking culture – rather, there is considerable variation in individual consumption styles and drinking behaviour.
• High levels of alcohol consumption were common across all socioeconomic groups. Consumption patterns showed more focused drinking among more deprived groups and younger people.
• High levels of consumption were not regarded as problematic by individual drinkers.
• Negative associations with drinking tended to focus on drunkenness and public disorder, typically associated with young people’s drinking, and on longer term ‘problem drinking’ and ‘addiction’.
• Individuals distanced their own drinking from perceptions of ‘problem drinking’.
• External influences relating to price, availability and other marketing activities, including sponsorship, were widely recognised and seen to influence consumption.
• Socioeconomic factors and changing life stages were also seen to influence consumption patterns.
• Approaches to controlling personal consumption and perceptions of ‘sensible’ drinking were evident but were not related to recommended weekly or daily drinking limits or to health concerns.
• Furthermore, recommended weekly and daily drinking limits were seen as irrelevant and understanding of how to calculate unit consumption was extremely low.
• Publicans and bar workers were able to identify problem drinkers but generally only intervened to deal with disruptive behaviour.
• There was some evidence of a general receptiveness to the idea of intervention to change drinking cultures in Scotland.
• Areas identified for further research included high consumption levels amongst some middle-aged ‘empty nesters’ across all social groups and the development of mechanisms for better recording of drinking behaviours.
Implications and recommendations
Changing drinking cultures in Scotland will take time and requires a holistic, multi-faceted strategy utilising a range of policies and interventions implemented both at a national and local level. Based on this research, ten recommendations for action have been developed.
Population level policies and interventions to support change
• Implement policies that increase the price and reduce the availability of alcohol.
• Challenge the advertising, sponsorship and broader marketing strategies of the alcohol beverage industry and retailers.
• Develop the role of publicans and the licensed trade in controlling levels of alcohol consumption.
• Work with the press and media to reframe the issue of drinking.
• Develop upstream socioeconomic approaches to enhance positive options.
Promote safer individual drinking behaviours
• Challenge cultural drinking norms, using mass media for example, in order to develop a social environment that is supportive of sensible drinking.
• Challenge current definitions of ‘problem drinking’ and encourage consideration of personal drinking styles.
• Develop messages that build on existing personal strategies for sensible drinking.
• Develop simpler ways for individuals to monitor their alcohol consumption.
• Maximise interpersonal opportunities to trigger consideration of drinking behaviours.
The full version of the report can be accessed at: http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/2659.aspx