Tuesday, 24 April 2007
VOTE: Should the legal drinking age be raised to 21?
The UK has one of the worst problems in Europe with a fifth of children aged 11 to 15 drinking at least once a week.
The Public Policy Research (PPR), the journal of the IPPR think-tank, says it is time to practice "tough love", such as reviewing the minimum drinking age. Others say Britain should consider making the legal drinking age 21.
Jasper Gerard, a columnist in the PPR says: "When it comes to booze, society seems to have lost its senses." If the drinking age is raised he believes: "It is at least possible that those in their early and mid teens will not see drink as something they will soon be allowed to do so therefore they might as well start doing it surreptitiously now."
Mr Gerard has also proposed that if the drinking age is not raised, then 18-year-olds should carry smart cards to record how much they have drunk each night, with a legal limit of three units of alcohol.
A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "There is a sense that the regulatory landscape is lopsided. Licensing reform, resistance to a debate on taxation, the cancellation of the Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaigns which raised the profile of underage drinking issues - all happening at a time when alcohol-related harm is rising - seem to suggest the government is more concerned about making sure the drinks industry operates with as little interference as possible than with seriously grasping the nettle."
David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: "What we really need to do is change the drinking culture through education rather than making drinking a social taboo by raising the legal drinking age."
A government spokesman said: "The majority of people drink sensibly and responsibly and the government has no plans to raise the minimum drinking age. Instead, we are using a combination of effective education and tough enforcement to change the behaviour of the minority that don't."
The number of under-18s taken to hospital with alcohol related diseases and injuries rose in 2005-2006 to 8,299, a jump of 40% on figures three years ago. Alcohol Concern found in 2005 that more than one in five 11-year-olds admitted to drinking. By the age of 12, drinkers start to outnumber non-drinkers.
Q. Should the legal drinking age be raised to 21?
Click: HERE to view the results.
(The results are archived by the British Library)