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Raise drinking age to 21, says think tank

It says measure needed to tackle binge drinking


A glass of red wine.

Young people should be banned from drinking until they reach 21 or be forced to carry a card that records their alcohol intake, a think tank columnist claims today.

Binge drinking has become such an ‘overwhelming’ problem, argues the journal of the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research, that policy makers need to practice ‘tough love’ and put drink out of the reach of youngsters.

In an article to be published this week columnist Jasper Gerard will say that the UK has ‘lost the plot’ over drinking laws.

He proposes raising the drinking age to 21 or requiring 18-year-olds to carry smart cards which record how much they have drunk each night and restricting them to three units of alcohol.

Binge drinking

Gerrard will also propose increasing the number of prosecutions and the level of fines on retailers selling alcohol to under-age drinkers and upping taxes on alcopops

He said: ‘The adverse social effects of binge drinking are now so overwhelming that we need to practice tough love.

‘By raising the age threshold 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. Instead they might come to see it as it should be: forbidden.’

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 per cent on figures three years ago.

A survey by charity 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.

Age limit

Frank Soodeen of Alcohol Concern said that the answer to cutting under-age drinking lay in using existing laws better rather than raising the age limit.

He said: ‘If the current laws were better utilised that would go a long way to reducing alcohol related violence. For example a lot of people don’t know that it is illegal to serve someone alcohol who is already very drunk.’

He said that a smart card to record the drinking of under-21s was, ‘a very think tank idea’ but added, ‘there is definitely an argument for using technology to help people monitor their drinking.’

A Home Office spokesman said that there were no plans to raise the age limit to buy alcohol.

‘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.’

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