In the spotlight - Alcohol for minors
Last week, we reported on the recommendation by the UK's chief medical officer that parents should not give their children any alcohol until they were at least 15 years old. The story prompted us to query what the alcohol industry should offer as a response - in these days of responsible drinking, the official line has been the condemnation of giving alcohol to anyone under the legal drinking age. However, with the binge drinking culture so prevalent in the UK, surely a controlled introduction by parents to the taste - and the dangers - of alcohol could help foster a healthy respect for the product? This conundrum prompted a wealth of responses from just-drinks readers. A selection of those responses follow.
"Criminalising underage drinking pushes alcohol consumption into unsupervised parties, which actually encourages binge drinking and likely leads to the associated bad behaviours. I'd encourage your countrymen to take a look closer to home for their model if they want to make real and lasting change." - JB, US.
"I think the binge-drinking culture we have in this country will never be eliminated, most of us have dreary jobs, live in a dreary country with dreary weather and the cost of living here is beyond the stratosphere. The weekend booze-up is a god given right of working people to have a blow out, it's relatively inexpensive, you can make it last as long as you want, it's sociable, it's local, it's creating employment and it prevents social unrest!" - JY, UK.
"I find the southern European way of introducing children to alcohol immensely intelligent and our way immensely stupid. Wine has been part of human existence almost since the beginning of time, and a watered-down glass of it surely does a child no harm.
"Whatever Britain is doing does not seem to be working - maybe the Franco-Italian way would be better. The American way (join the army at 18, but no beer for you!) would be worse." - BW, US.
"My husband and I own a boutique vineyard and so wine is a feature of our daily life. Raising our children around wine, we adopted the European philosophy of introducing the children, who were naturally curious, to small amounts of wine from a young age. Our two children are now teenage and we are pleased to report that their attitudes to wine appear somewhat more moderate than that of their peers, many of whom have adopted the New Zealand binge drinking culture." - VA, New Zealand.
"In 1983, Dr George E Vaillant, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard University published 'The Natural History of Alcoholism', he compared the upbringing of men who became alcoholics with those who did not.
"His findings support the thesis that people exposed to responsible drinking - wine with meals - were much less likely to become alcoholics than those who were brought up in homes where alcohol was forbidden." - FS, UK.
"I am American but my mother's family is Italian, and from a very young age, they gave me a little red wine with Coke because it was "good for the heart". Away at college, my parents knew I was going to drink prior to hitting 21, but they instilled a sensibility about it in me from a very young age, which allowed me to enjoy the pleasures of it, rather than the 'drink 'til you puke' attitude of most young Americans today." - JN, US.
"I'm surprised to see a European country follow the poor example set by the US. Legal drinking age legislation and condemnation here has been largely farcical and tends only to make matters worse. Education seems to be the really only effective way of curbing binge drinking. Whether education comes from the home (from parents who may introduce their children to responsible drinking) or through out-of-home awareness campaigns, the fact of the matter remains that legislation does little to quell binge drinking." - JB - US.
"Considering the 'nature' of this country and its inhabitants, I think it's wholly ridiculous to compare us to the French or the Spanish, to get us to fall in line and drink responsibly will never work. Now, if you pushed the UK into the middle of the Indian Ocean, then maybe!" - JY, UK.
"It is a characteristic of contemporary UK politics that prescriptions for policy are based on simplistic and inadequate analysis of issues. This makes it easier to blame a social problem on a product rather than on the culture that gives rise to it.
"Banning the product, or attempting to price it out of the market, will mean that it will become a classic case, where the invisible market will be dominated by criminals in much the same way as the market in drugs." - JM, UK.
So, what do you think? E-mail us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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