Headlines: October 5th, 2000

Two new surveys into under-age drinking are likely to re-affirm the Government’s commitment to tackle alcohol use by under 18’s as part of its youth crime and antisocial behaviour strategy.The studies show how prevalent under-age drinking is, and the drivers that encourage young people to drink.

Earlier this year, the Licensing White Paper contained plans to place a positive duty on licensees and their staff not to sell alcohol unless the age of the purchaser is known.

It also proposed tougher enforcement powers for the police and local authorities to deal with retailers found selling drink to youngsters, who would be allowed to use test purchasing of alcohol by under 18’s to entrap those breaking the rules.

The Home Office Alcohol Action Plan launched in August also included a package of measures to combat underage drinking, such as wider use of ‘proof of age’ schemes to restrict under 18’s access to alcohol in licensed premises.

The two studies are: ‘Underage Drinking: Findings From The 1998-99 Youth Lifestyles Survey’ and ‘The Social Contexts of Underage Drinking’.

These found that nearly two thirds of those aged 16-17 had drunk alcohol in the last year, buying it themselves, in pubs, bars and nightclubs. Half of those aged 16-17 drank at least once a week.One in seven admitted they had been involved in some form of antisocial behaviour as a result.

The studies also uncovered the reasons young people gave for drinking: to relax or wind-down; to give them the courage to take advantage of social situations, and as a result of pressure from their peers.

Copies of both studies are available from the Home Office Publications Unit on 0207 273 2084.