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Comment: Alcohol, pricing and teenage 'boredom'

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Price rises on drinks are not the solution to preventing excess drinking by teenagers and young people in the UK, argues just-drinks' student journalist Becky Pile.

Drinkaware's recent survey of 1,071 teenagers in the UK claims that boredom causes 29% of them to drink alcohol, with 71% ranking drinking as their preferred activity over reading or exercise.  

This report is the latest in an ongoing obsession with the drinking habits of teenagers. Excess drinking is only anticipated to increase during the summer holidays, with adolescents finding themselves with less and less to do.

While some blame the issue of teenage drinking on the technological age  - the obsession with text messaging and Facebook - resulting in an adolescent inability to socially interact in the real world, others blame it simply on the low cost of alcohol.

A survey carried out by Alcohol Concern polled over 1,000 people directly concerned with this issue, such as teachers, doctors and the police. It found that 62% think that there should be a minimum price per unit for alcohol to stop discounting in supermarkets, shops and off-licences.

While it does seem ridiculous that a three-litre bottle of cider can cost less than a trip to the cinema, why is the automatic response to excess teenage drinking to increase the price of alcohol?

For example, if boredom is the real issue, why not reduce the price of entry, or improve access to, social outlets and forms of entertainment?

Many teenage minds, believe it or not, go much further than a straightforward desire to get drunk on cheap alcohol; teenage alcohol abuse is not as clear-cut as trying to get value for money.

It would be wrong to assume that by raising the price of alcohol teenage drinking will be banished forever.

With alcohol constantly in the public spotlight and juxtaposed to the attractive party lifestyle, is it much wonder why teenagers want to drink?

It is also no use to write off the generation as a lost cause, incapable of making the right choices for themselves, while the adult world simply attempts to extend further the restrictions teenagers already fight against.

Despite being labelled as the third worst bingers in Europe, there are still plenty of UK teenagers who either 'know their limits' or don't drink at all.

Increasing awareness of the consequences of excessive drink, such as the enhanced likelihood of rape, sexually transmitted infections, criminal activity, the dangers of drink driving and the damage to your body, is more likely to have a positive impact.

However, even this can only go so far; yes provide the warnings, but a constant bombardment of campaigns will simply make these warnings become the backdrop of what it means to drink.

In the end, teenagers must be given room to make their own conscious decision and lifestyle choice, irrespective of anything else, if any progress is ever going to be made towards fighting this binge drinking culture.


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