Scots consider new drinking age limits

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcohol, Drinking culture, Eu

Amidst a growing raft of measures designed to combat alcohol abuse,
Scottish politicians are today expected to unveil new proposals to
raise the legal drinking age in the country to 21 at off-trade
retailers, according to press reports.

Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill is expected to detail the proposals that will affect how some consumers can buy their alcohol outside of pubs and bars, as part of a wider review into curbing binge drinking, says the UK-based The Times newspaper. Such proposals will come as a blow to the alcohol industry, which hopes to retain as much self-regulation as possible amidst growing pressure to restrict how they sell their products. The industry is likely to fight the plans, which are seen as further drastic attempts to target concerns over high-levels of drinking that have in some cases included additional taxation on manufacturers and promotional restrictions. Advert responsibility ​ Key players and alcohol organizations have unsurprisingly favoured their own corporate responsibility initiatives based around advertising. Independent research carried out for Diageo on its advertising campaigns that ran last year suggested that such a focus may be working. According to the company, 66 per cent of those surveyed about the campaigns said they would reconsider how they drink alcohol.​The survey, between 29 May to 6 June, queried consumers on the adverts. The testing, conducted by Millward Brown on 300 participants all over 18, focused on two adverts commissioned by Diageo that aired on both national terrestrial and satellite channels in May on the dangers of drinking excessively. A further 80 per cent of those surveyed said the adverts made them question their drinking habits, while 96 per cent welcomed responsible drinking initiatives by beverage companies. Jean Collingwood, chief executive officer for the industry-based responsible drinking imitative Drinkaware said the findings were an encouraging sign that alcohol manufactures were succeeding in promoting responsible drinking. "The results of this evaluation lead the way in demonstrating how companies can use consumer intelligence, insight and marketing skills to positively challenge and impact upon consumer behaviour,"​ she stated. "Many companies in the industry are committed to corporate social responsiblity programmes on a number of platforms which are already creating an impact."​ However, not everyone is convinced by the effectiveness of these industry pledges. Andrew McNeill, honorary secretary for the alcohol policy group Eurocare, told BeverageDaily.com that similar industry-led self-regulatory schemes are still viewed with concern by some health professionals. EU concerns ​ The argument over age comes after the European Parliament last year adopted a new strategy to combat alcohol related harm throughout the bloc, as a result of growing concerns over health fears over EU alcoholic consumption rates. Binge-drinking, the availability of ready-to-drink "alcopops​", drink driving, and the issue of product labelling were highlighted as key areas of concern by MEPs for future reform. A number of measures which will be introduced, including increased spending on alcohol awareness campaigns in member states. The drive to clamp down further on the industry reflects fears over growing alcohol abuse in the bloc. Excessive consumption of alcohol is estimated to kill 200,000 Europeans a year, according to the EU figures. This pattern is attributed predominantly to men aged 15 - 29 with one in four of alcohol related deaths coming from this demographic. Though women were found to fair better in the study, estimates still claim that alcohol is responsible for the death of one in ten females belonging to the same age group.

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