Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Under-Age Drinking: Keep an Eye on the Booze

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Under-Age Drinking: Keep an Eye on the Booze

Article excerpt

Once used as a way of tracing stolen bicycles, coding is now being used to combat under-age drinking in Scotland. As part of a pilot scheme launched on 29 January, alcopops, fizzy wine and other drinks popular with teenagers are being branded with a number specific to their place of sale.


Police in Ayrshire plan to use the codes to trace shopkeepers and adults supplying drink to under-18s. If the scheme is successful, the Scottish Executive will consider rolling out the voluntary initiative as a national programme.

"The aim is both to prosecute offenders and gather information about places where children are getting their alcohol," says a spokesperson for Strathclyde Police. "Practically all the vendors are supportive. The scheme is backed by the licensing authority and they do not want any trouble."

With England, Scotland has one of the highest rates of under-age drinking in the world. A World Health Organisation survey last year reported that 43 per cent of Scottish 15-year-olds drink alcohol every week. (In France, the figure is 23 per cent and even in Norway and Sweden, countries associated with a high consumption of alcohol, it is 20 per cent.

In addition to health concerns, drinking is linked to antisocial behaviour. Strathclyde Police estimate that almost half of all calls concern youth disorder, usually after drinking sessions.

The public overwhelmingly supports coding. Binge drinking in adolescence crosses all classes; the difference, according to shopkeepers, lies in the type of alcohol purchased (cider in poorer areas and spirits in affluent ones). …

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