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A Political Question (Fancy a Little Quaff?) July 31, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Life, Chatter & Politics.
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Had a lovely night with the girls last night – very entertaining and very fun!

On a more serious note, however, I was talking yesterday about under-age and aggressive drinkers. We all know that in Britain their is a “problem” with teenagers binge drinking and boozing in public places. The new and slightly unfair public perception is that the youth of today are all drinking, punching, fighting louts, girls and boys alike.

Alcohol

For me, drinking was great fun for the last year of sixth form, involving house parties, “adventures”, and lot of drunken camping. We binged (undoubtedly), but I honestly believe any instances of us being antisocial and uncouth were rare, and usually confined the the realm of the tent.

Firstly – all teenagers cannot be tagged as drinkers. Secondly, all drinkers cannot be tagged as anti-social and violent. The UK has, interestingly, become a land where the young and the free are (yet again) discriminated againstfor the action of a few. And all whilst plenty of adults are out getting pissed and lairy – and let me tell you, I have seen far more of this than of the teenagers!

So how do we deal with the teenage violence and drunken aggression. Amognst many ideas out there are raising the drinking age to 21 (conveniently ignoring the fact that the majority of drinkers are underage anyway!), and harsher punishments. The problem is that penalising vast swathes of the population for the actions of their peers is not only prejudices, but highly unjust. Someone once killed someone with a hammer – it doesn’t mean that all hammers should be banned. Tarring everyone with the same brush is a dangerous idea.

Yet I agree that this situation, with it’s public empathy and high publicity levels, cannot just be left “as is”. So what can we do?

My idea is a simple one, and focuses on penalising specific offenders. The basic principles are as follows:

  1. Everyone, regardless of what age they look, should be ID’d. At the very least this will make alcohol harder to get hold of. Oh, and if you don’t have your ID? You don’t get served.
  2. Those who are caught being aggressive will have a “black mark” (whether electronic or physical) on their ID, meaning that they cannot buy alcohol until over 21. This is a punishment for specific offenders (and specific groups of offenders”.

It is simple – but I think it would work, and stop all the harmless tipsy kids out there from being harshly punished and misrepresented!

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Comments»

1. Caroline - July 31, 2009

Hmmm, interesting post. They covered this topic on the youth edition of newsnight a couple of weeks back. As per usual, the conclusion was …inconclusive!

I personally like the idea of an electronic card with black marks. It wouldn’t need to contain any information about you, just your photo on it, and a little reader on the bar/cash register which you swipe your card along every time you get served and which flashes up a red or green light. This would make self-service at the supermarket much easier – no more “APPROVAL NEEDED” everytime you try to buy your pink fizz!

Of course, this could mean the end of buying rounds – what happens if one person wants to buy for 6 people, one of whom has a black mark. Will they then have to take up ID for everyone they’re buying for?

What about in supermarkets? Will they too have to provide ID for everyone who may potentially be sharing that bottle of wine (did you read about the father who wasn’t allowed to buy a bottle of wine for himeslf because his daughter was with him?)?

As a 28 year old who has been IDed 4 times in the last month I don’t mind carrying ID around with me. But I can seen potential problems arising…

2. Caroline - July 31, 2009

P.S. Be a good topic for dyalogues! (I think we maybe submitted too many already though…)

3. tonikelly - July 31, 2009

I agree wholeheartedly. For me, teenagers aren’t the problem specifically – anyone who binge drinks in public and gets aggressive is the problem (and the two are mutually exclusive, despite what the Daily Mail like to think).

I wouldn’t change much, because I’m a libertarian at heart. My solution would be simple, and it wouldn’t even need new legislation, just the enforcing of existing laws. If someone is drunk, it’s illegal to serve alcohol to them, but when is that ever stuck to in this country? If it was enforced and bars etcetera could lose their licences if they served alcohol to those already well over the limit, things might change – binge drinking would still exist, but perhaps more at home than out on the town, amongst crowds, where tension is somewhat inevitable.

ID checking is very difficult, due in part to the idea – as Caroline mentions – of buying “rounds” and the like. Some of the “binge drinking teens” actually have alcohol bought for them by their parents, so ID is useless in those situations.

There is no answer though, unless you go totally authoritarian on people and curb drinking socially all together or (as the Scots want to do) put alcohol prices up. But how is that fair, as it punishes those who drink within their limits as well as binge drinkers – that can’t be right.

I’m a bit nonplussed on how to stop (but so are the Government), though stronger laws and punishments for serving alcohol to those already intoxicated would be my chosen first weapon.

Great post, by the way 🙂

4. Anne - July 31, 2009

I’m 27 now, and drank my fair share in my late teens, however our drinking was confined to houseparties etc, never in public, causing a scene or nuisance. But I’ve certainly seen enough of it when out. I thought in the more popular towns police issued red and yellow cards to anti-social people? This to me seems sensible as doesn’t ‘tar’ every young person as an out of control drunkard etc. I kinda like the ID of booze cards but am not sure how effective it would actually be – when I was underage booze normally came via older friends or even family. Maybe it would work in areas that have problems?

I do get annoyed with having to carry my ID though, I look fairly young but certainly nowhere near 18 or even early twenties (does an 18 year old have wrinkles?) The current ’25’ thing seems to be pretty hit n miss, I think they seem to ask everyone! Recently in a large supermarket beginning with T, I got refused. Due to the nature of my job I don’t carry much money and only a works ID card – we are not supposed to carry anything else, however as I wanted to pick up a couple of bits of shopping on the way home from work, including a small pack of cold beer (I was in uniform and been at work since 7am, npt in best moods!), I was mightily pissed off with the cashier when she asked and I made a complaint to their head office (still waiting for a reply). Yes I can see the need to carry ID but the current rules seem stupid and makes it much harder on the rest of us.

5. ElementalGrace - August 2, 2009

I like your black marks plan!

Genuinely though, I do think the problem is agression at least as much if not more than it is alcohol, because alcohol only exacerbates what is already there. If ever I drink to excess (which is beyond rare these days) I’m still happy and clumsy so perhaps the question is more why we are so stressed, overworked, angry and frustrated? Perhaps our whole way of life needs an overhaul as much as our drinking habits.


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