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Criminalizing Teen Drinkers

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Home Secretary To Announce New Policies

Parents who allow their children to drink alcohol in public face being prosecuted in a new government drive to get a grip on drunken youths marauding the streets. Police will be given new powers to disperse youngsters congregating in the streets, parks and bus shelters. Youths who regularly drink alcohol in public will be committing an offence created by the new legislation. The moves will be unveiled by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith as part of a new Alcohol Action Plan - a raft of measures designed to curb binge-drinking among teenagers and children as young as 10. The cross-Whitehall plan comes in response to heightened concern among voters about anti-social behaviour and alcohol abuse among young people.

Under the Alcohol Action Plan teenagers persistently possessing alcohol in public will be subjected to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and acceptable behaviour contracts. Their parents will be hit by similar orders and contracts, (including required of parenting courses) if they fail to get their children to "change their ways". Ultimately, both children continue to drink and their parents will be prosecuted and could serve time in gaol.

Alcohol Concern, the national agency charged with combating alcohol problems, attacked the move to criminalise children for drinking. "Young people with drink problems need support and advice, not a criminal record and there is a danger that kids are going to be criminalised for copying adult behaviour," a spokesman said. "Until we get to the heart of why young people drink in public it's unlikely that we'll see any sort of change in attitudes or behaviour."

Researchers at the Centre for Duncanian Studies point out that while a majority of British teens drink alcohol (and historically always have), most are not binge drinkers. Inevitably, the new policies are likely to impact more young people who are not problem drinkers than those who are. “Worse still, a large body of research has long shown that punishing young people for use of alcohol or other drugs actually increases the likelihood that they will continue the behaviour and makes them far more likely to become addicted. Evaluations have also shown that various past attempts, here and in the United States, to penalize parents for their children’s drug use or law-breaking have been total failures and have often actually encouraged some young people to continue their delinquencies in order to get their parents in further trouble.”

Once again, the politicians have arrived at a "solution", rooted in ignorance, that is likely to make the problem worse while appealing to the voter's basest fears and biases.