- The proposal has been put forward by experts at NHS Health Scotland
- They say more must be done to tackle alcohol problem with young people
- The move would apply in pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences
Health bosses are considering raising the legal age for buying alcohol to 21 to tackle binge drinking.
The proposal has been put forward by experts at NHS Health Scotland, the Scottish Government’s health promotions agency, which says more action is needed to tackle the ‘continuing problem’ of ‘hazardous alcohol consumption in young people’.
The move would apply in pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland.
New measure: Health bosses are considering raising the legal age for buying alcohol to 21 to tackle binge drinking
If introduced it would mean the legal minimum age for buying alcohol would be higher in Scotland than it is in the rest of Britain, where it is 18.
Last night Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said he would welcome the minimum age being set at 21.
He said: ‘If it was 21 now, I would not be calling for it to be lowered.’ But he added: ‘Given the fact that we are where we are, I think that politically it is quite difficult, when the age is 18 for so many other adult rites in our society.’
The proposal to raise the legal age is outlined in a report titled ‘Best Preventative Investments for Scotland – What the Evidence and Experts Say’, which examines mea-sures to improve public health.
It says the idea to ‘increase the minimum legal drinking age to 21 would be highly cost-effective, as it would both improve people’s health without having to spend much money, and reduce demand on the NHS’. Report author Neil Craig said: ‘In Scotland, hazardous alcohol consumption in young people is a continuing problem.
‘For both males and females, the largest increase in hospitalisation rates for alcohol-related conditions since the early 1980s has been in the 15-24 year olds, and this was particularly marked for females.’
In fact, doctors across the whole of Britain are worried about the increase in such hospitalisations.
Between 2002 and 2010, the number of admissions to English hospitals among 15 to 24 year olds due to alcohol rose by 66 per cent to 55,655 – or more than 150 a day.
The proposal has been put forward by experts at NHS Health Scotland, the Scottish Government’s health promotions agency
The increase among women (76 per cent) was higher than in men (57 per cent).
While the Government in Westminster has been reluctant to legislate to tackle the alcohol problem, the Scottish Government has had far fewer reservations.
It has already agreed a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, although the controversial move will not be implemented if the Scottish Whisky Association succeeds in an ongoing court battle to block it.
The Scottish Government has also banned ‘BOGOF’ (buy-one-get-one-free) deals and other offers encouraging bulk-buying of alcohol, and reduced the drink driving limit.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We remain open to the consideration of any evidence-based proposals that can contribute to reducing alcohol-related harm.’
A Department of Health spokesman in London said: ‘There are no plans to increase the legal age for buying alcohol.’