Drink age limit divide grows amidst Scottish debate

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drinking culture European union Uk

Drinking age limits continue to dominate headlines in the UK as the Scottish Executive yesterday debated the potential merits of limiting sales to people over 21 at some retail outlets, amidst wider interest in the scheme.

Protesters formed from a number of student groups in Scotland have hit out at the plans to restrict sales at off-trade premises like supermarkets, demonstrating their concerns yesterday outside the Parliament building in Edinburgh.

Despite the ire from young drinkers over claims they are scapegoats over wider fears across Europe regarding irresponsible drinking, the scheme is reportedly picking up interest from other policy makers in the UK.

London calling

According to UK newspaper the Evening Standard, London mayor Boris Johnson announced plans in July to enact similar trials in some areas of the city as part of his own attempts to tackle binge drinking in the English capital.

Even the European Commission (EC), which is itself spearheading drives to cut down on irresponsible drinking, has praised strict enforcement of drink age limits as part of the social responsibility goal. The EC told BeverageDaily.com last month though that a Europe-wide push for similar schemes would be difficult to push through.

“The EU, and more precisely the Commission, can greet or support [member states] that decide to raise the age limit for alcohol consumption, but it cannot propose anything like that to all member states,”​ stated a Commission spokesperson.

Trade groups such as UK-based Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) claim that any government considering raising the alcohol purchasing age to 21 would not only be going against popular public opinion, but also fail to curb alcohol abuse.

Industry policing

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the group, said that empowering police to better enforce existing laws would better serve the consumer in the long-run in regards to alcohol policy.

Raising the drinking age will not reduce alcohol misuse,”​ stated Beadles. “It is through strictly enforcing the laws we have that progress will be made.”

Abuse fears

Excessive consumption of alcohol is estimated to kill 200,000 Europeans a year, according to Commission 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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