Effects of Stricter Regulations in British Pubs

The London subways were a nasty sight on the morning of June 1st due to the impromptu party the previous night, when British teens and young adults celebrated the last hurrah for drinking on public transportation.  The Economist discussed this party and drinking, in general, in a recent article, and noted the changes in drinking patterns of Britain’s youth.  While more teens now report never trying alcohol, those who have tried it are drinking larger quantities, and this is especially true for those 11-13 years old.  Demographic changes have not been drastic enough to explain this shift in drinking behavior, and it is believed that more hostile regulations on drinking in pubs and bars have encouraged teens to move their drinking elsewhere, such as the trains, parks, or street corners.  In pubs, people must behave properly in order to prevent being thrown out, and social pressures and norms tend to keep people in line and behaving according to the status quo.  Supervision and social restraint disappear when teens drink in private and are more free to do whatever they want, get as drunk as they want, etc.  Along with increases in quantity of alcohol consumed, spirits are now more common than ever before.  They also tend to be consumed when teens drink on their own, and not in pubs which often offer more beer and wine. 

We believe that these points echo our own ideas about the drinking age in the U.S. since, just as British young adults want to avoid the strict bars and drink on their own, Americans who cannot enter bars and legally drink also turn to drinking on their own.  Dangerous binge drinking often results, which can get out of control due to a lack of monitoring and supervision at private parties.  Lowering the drinking age could help prevent binge drinking by allowing young adults an opportunity to drink in public settings (bars, restaurants) where they might feel it is more inappropriate to binge drink and get ragingly drunk.  Their behavior could also be better monitored and supervised by others; a bartender is more likely than a drunk friend to cut someone off.

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