Youth Comment

Since re-election, Blair has highlighted antisocial behaviour as a problem he plans to tackle “head on”. The two (undeniably linked) issues of binge drinking and yobbish behaviour seem to top the list of social problems needing to be dealt with. While the current Labour rhetoric on targeting deviant behaviour seems to apply across the social strata, a look at recently proposed legislation indicates that this new drive is being targeted primarily at under-18s.

Minors now face new antisocial behaviour orders, curfews and dispersal zones, and their parents could be sent to classes, to instil values of “respect” and curb the “epidemic” of binge drinking and yobbish behaviour. Meanwhile those legally entitled to drink look forward to new 24-hour drinking licences.

This is a double standard which can be seen across society. Alcohol companies are regularly criticised for marketing alcopops to under-18s, while the magazine on student life sent to my 19-year-old brother contains pages of ads for beer and cocktails. I am not challenging the points made regarding alcopops and minors, which are both valid and relevant, but rather my question is this: why is it alright to condone excessive drinking and, in effect, the “antisocial” behaviour which accompanies it, as long as the drinkers are legal?

If under-18s were solely responsible for antisocial behaviour in Britain today there might be some sense behind these double standards, however, we all know that this is not the case. In reality pubs and bars, or rather the streets just outside of them, witness much of the violent and abusive behaviour in our society, instigated by people who have been drinking, but legally.

If heavy drinking is regarded as normal for adults is it any wonder that this behaviour is replicated by minors? And if they are barred from licensed drinking venues is it any wonder they drink on the street?  

In much of Europe bars can serve over-16s beer and wine (but no spirits), because the argument is that it fosters a more mature attitude towards drink and keeps young drinkers off the streets. Is it possible this kind of European-style licence would have a better effect on antisocial behaviour than draconian ASBOs and blame-shifting parenting classes? 

Josh Feder is a student

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