Anyone, this year, instructing a teenager to “Have a merry
Christmas”, should first ensure that they do not have a crate of
alco-pops stashed under the bed. Figures released this month
indicate that teenagers are gripped by an “epidemic” of binge
drinking, mostly alco-pops.
Consumption has doubled in a decade.
Among the 86 per cent of 15 year olds who drink, boys consume an
average of 13.8 units, girls 10.7 units. Consumption is usually
squeezed into one or two nights.The industry claims it is not
targeting the young – but who else is going to drink half a dozen
bottles of stuff that tastes like diluted treacle? And why
advertise via commercials that look like a slice of MTV? The danger
is that the sweeter the drink, the faster it goes down. The market
is worth £1bn a year and growing – but at what price to
juvenile boozers, and their livers?
Drink, of course, puts young people seriously at risk. A survey by
the magazine Company found that about 50 per cent of women
under 24 had walked home alone too drunk to be aware of any risk to
them; one in seven had been involved in a fight, and one in three
had experienced unprotected sex.
Last year, the government spent only £95m tackling alcoholism
while accruing a staggering £7bn in revenue from alcohol
sales. It has embarked on a consultation period to devise a
strategy to dissuade us from taking to the bottle excessively.
First, it should decide how much of its alcohol revenue it’s
prepared to forfeit, so we can judge the seriousness of its
Why are the young drinking more? Many have the cash; parental
authority is laxer; social disapproval of the drunk is weaker. In
addition, pressure is more intense. More now experience family
problems, examination worries, appearance and relationship
anxieties. Some will undoubtedly grow out of it, but
proportionately many more are likely to go through life with a
drink in their hand. So, what’s to be done?
The Royal College of Physicians wants an advertising ban,
restricted opening hours, increased prices and improved
The key is to encourage the young to regulate themselves. That’s
hard, when “celebrities” like Jordan, make public inebriation
appear a valid career choice.
How to make sobriety “cool”? Perhaps, in part, we can appeal to
vanity. Show a girl the face of a heavy drinker 20 years on, and
she might just say “Not me”. Then, put that alco-pop down.