Magazine article The Spectator

Drunk and Orderly

Magazine article The Spectator

Drunk and Orderly

Article excerpt

In the adult world of the pub, under-18s can learn to drink alcohol responsibly

Why are so many young people so bad at getting drunk? No sooner have they necked a couple of lagers or downed a bottle of sickly alcopop than they start parading through the streets, skirts up or trousers down. There's no dignity to their drunkenness. They get obviously, stupidly drunk. Things have got so bad that this week the British Red Cross - more used to helping out in disaster zones - suggested teaching young people 'alcohol first aid', to give them the 'ability and confidence to cope in a [drinking] crisis'.

The inability of today's yoof to consume booze in an adult fashion is, ironically, a byproduct of the authorities' war on underage drinking. New Labour and the Liberal-Conservative coalition have promoted a zerotolerance attitude towards teenage drinking.

They have introduced stiff punishments for any public house that dares to pull a pint for a 15-, 16- or 17-year-old. They have increased the powers of the police to shut down such dastardly institutions and given local councils the right to revoke their licences.

As a consequence, pubs have become no-go zones for those who inhabit the purgatorial zone between childhood and adulthood. And that's a disaster, because it was trad i t iona l ly in pubs tha t young peop le learned how to handle their drink. In the grown-up world of the boozer, teenagers were taught adult skills: how to conduct themselves socially, how to converse with other adults, how to flirt and how to drink in a way that wasn't embarrassing. No amount of alcohol training by the Red Cross can replace that informal education of old.

Now, permanently barred from pubs, underage boozers booze on ly w ith each other, in their bedrooms, in parks, in car parks, under bridges, in the shadows of public monuments. Not surprisingly, this has nurtured a generation of drinkers who drink in the most juvenile fashion.

Last week , the consu ltat ion per iod for the Lib-Cons' proposed reforms to the licensing laws - published in July under the title 'Rebalancing the Licensing Act' - comes to a close. One of the key proposals is to punish even more harshly public houses that 'persistently sell alcohol to children'.

The Lib-Cons want to increase the power of the police to shut down any pub suspected of serving underage drinkers. At the moment, cops can force pubs to close for 48 hours. …

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