Mary Anne Sieghart has done a similar job in relation to teens and pubs. I think many of us can relate to the picture she paints here.
When we were teenagers, we started going to the pub from the age of about 14. We had to pretend to be 18, but most landlords didn't ask and the rest gave us a wink but served us anyway. The pub was an institution, a social hub. You wanted to be accepted by the regulars, so you behaved the way they did.Quite. But then the modern temperance movement and health lobby got stuck in, and the rest - teens swilling cheap grog on park benches, for example - is history.
And because we were under 18, we knew we had to remain inconspicuous. The landlord would tolerate our presence as long as we didn't embarrass ourselves or him. We didn't dare get smashed or he wouldn't allow us back. And because we tended to meet the same group of friends in the same pub, being banned was not a good move.
The other thing about a pub was that it was mixed-age. The older regulars wouldn't exactly boss you about; they were more likely to take the mickey. But you respected them and didn't want them to think you were a complete fool. The aim was to be able to hold your drink. It would have been humiliating to get legless in front of them.
Of course, being a columnist for The Indy, Mary's solution to the problems caused by overweening regulation ... is even more regulation, this time in the form of raised duty on off sales and reductions for pubs. That is clearly not going to work considering Mary has already identified the problem, but she's a right-on type with elephant blindness, it would appear.
However, whilst meandering to her disappointing denouement, she has encapsulated the problem in one simple paragraph, even if she stumbled there from completely the wrong direction.
If we had invented a system that encouraged young people to drink too much, it would look like this. Strong spirits would be ridiculously cheap to take home. Bars and clubs would be designed to maximize the amount people drank. And young people would be deterred from entering the one institution that taught them how to drink well rather than badly.****It is, indeed, a model which encourages the worst excesses in teen drinkers, but it is entirely caused by those who see alcohol as a demon, and teens as fragile as a soap bubble.
Current legislation can send a licensee to bankruptcy should he/she be caught serving a pint of IPA to a 17 year old, so consequentially 17 year olds don't drink in pubs, even surreptitiously. They will still drink, though, and it's arguable that teen money has had an effect in driving off sale prices downwards.
The best way, then, to get back to the days of youths forsaking the park bench in favour of venues which subtlely teach "how to drink well rather than badly", is to abandon the policies which drove them there in the first place.
Stop sending rugby playing 17 year olds into pubs on entrapment errands; free the police to punish unruly behaviour rather than licensees for serving respectful teens with a bottle of Bud; get the righteous out of the equation and allow the public to apply common sense within guided boundaries**.
The very last thing the state should do is what Mary has suggested - that being to apply more legislative tweaks to a problem they caused with previous meddlesome regulation. Or, as Jackart puts it ...
The message to Government is simple. STEP AWAY FROM THE LEGISLATION. WE WILL SOLVE PROBLEMS, NOT THE STATE, IF YOU LEAVE US ALONE.He's most certainly not wrong, you know.
**Of course, if the government wanted to see the return of the quiet local for trainee adults to dare to enter, they could quietly knock Health Act 2006 enforcement on the head too ... but that would be far too imaginative for our current bunch of elected numpties to comprehend, I suspect.
UPDATE: Bobski has shamed me by articulating perfectly my first reaction to the Sieghart paragraph which I have enthusiastically labelled ****
Last sentence is spot on in my mind. Third sentence is slightly misleading, they are meant to make it easy to drink (bar access and stocked drinks) and more enjoyable while intoxicated but they don't force people to drink. Second sentence to me is something that isn't the issue, I am a free marketeer (so low prices are good) and alcohol has always been cheaper to buy at a shop and take home than drink out. Finally the first sentence of the above paragraph; I think that we have created a system that has increased the availability of alcohol and legislation has removed the old teaching mechanisms and made it more desirable to 14-17 years olds by telling them that they aren't allowed it.Bravo!