Sunday, 13 October 2013

There is another "discussion" brewing

about the age at which alcohol should be (legally) available. I have done some quite deliberate stirring with a letter to the state newspaper after "Australian of the Year", Ita Buttrose, suggested the drinking age should once again be raised to twenty-one.
Naturally her suggestion has produced howls of rage from many. Two groups are particularly prominent. The first is the 18-21 year old group who believe they would be the most affected. The second is the hospitality industry with its dire warnings about unemployment, flow on effects, a downturn in tourism etc etc.
Now the 18-21 year old group claim that, if they have the right to vote they also have the right to buy alcohol. They say that if any government tries to bring in such a law they will simply vote them out of existence. The answer to that of course is for all parties to have the same policy. Probably no hope of that.
The "we are allowed to vote therefore we should be allowed to drink" argument is interesting. Recently there were quite serious suggestions that sixteen year olds should be given the vote. If they had the right to vote would they also have the right to drink? Where would you stop? Why sixteen? Why not fifteen or seventeen?
The reality is that those under eighteen already find ways to procure alcohol and drink it - often to excess.
We have an alcohol problem in this country, a big alcohol problem. It is very readily available at extraordinarily extended hours and our culture encourages the excess use of it. It is not, as it is in many countries, drunk with food. It is merely drunk. It is seen by many as an essential part of an evening out, so much so that some young people will consume a considerable quantity at home before heading out simply because they actually plan to drink to excess and "have a good time".  
I don't drink alcohol myself. I am actually allergic to alcohol. It causes me to feel itchy all over - and, believe me, it is a very unpleasant sensation.
That said I have absolutely no objections to other people enjoying alcohol - but I do mean enjoy it. I do not mean indulge in it or drink excessive amounts of it or use it as an excuse for violence or causing an accident or doing any other harm to themselves or to other people.
What puzzles me is that it is so often seen as an essential ingredient in the "have a good time" recipe. It seems to be part of the expectation that, rather than create our own entertainment, we will be entertained by others.
I am sure, if you can tolerate it, a little alcohol is nice now and then but is it also necessary or even essential? And, shouldn't it wait until the majority of brains have "grown up"?
We aren't going to stop under-age drinking but it should surely be possible to reduce access to alcohol. If it harms the "hospitality" industry too bad. Perhaps some of the money saved on alcohol related incidents could go on employing them in other ways to entertain us all?


Judy Edmonds said...

I believe that in the US the legal age is 21. I wonder if they have the same problems with underage drinking that we do? The 'legal' age here seems to be irrelevant. Would that change if the age is raised? There may be studies out there about it but I don't know about them.

catdownunder said...

I think it varies from one state to the next in the US Judy - but I may be wrong. I don't think they have the same "drinking culture" either - or that is the impression I get. I might be quite wrong!