*Hic* (little Jimmy, you stinkin’ drunk!)

‘Daddy drinks because I cry’ is, if not the most tasteful, at least one of the more interesting slogans to put on a baby t-shirt. I mention this partly because I think children’s clothing is generally boring (like many children, before they learn to talk) and because the subject of alcohol and children was in the news last week (and not at all for a cheap laugh, as all right-thinking people will surely agree that that t-shirt is not funny).

Alcohol Concern recently outlined proposals to make drinking alcohol under the age of 15 illegal. I think I speak for all children when I say ‘Wot? You mean it’s not already?’ Clearly the alco-pop aficionados on my street corner have been lied to, or they would not all spend most Friday nights at the off-licence trying to convince the dubious staff that their pimple-ridden, hairless faces are those of middle-aged bankers who happen to like a bit of White Lightning before they ride home on their bikes.

I had always assumed that parents allowing you to drink at home was one of those things in the league of ‘yes, it’s illegal, but we do it anyway because nobody really minds’, like home-taping, libelling Catherine Zeta-Jones or fox-hunting. But apparently, as the law currently stands, it is only children under 5 who may not be given alcohol in the home. I must admit, the idea of drunk six-year-olds initially amused me until I realised that, aside from the cirrhosis, if a very young child showed poor judgement, a comical lack of co-ordination and a total disregard for social etiquette, nobody would really notice any difference.

I personally think Alcohol Concern is wrong (and by the way, their name is misleading—you don’t see Age Concern going round trying to ban the elderly, do you?) My parents, when I was 13, allowed me to drink with meals. I can not point the finger at them saying that they by doing so have turned me into a raging alcoholic. I can, since the drinks they gave me were mainly pink Gin and Tonic and Port and Lemon, point it at them for trying to turn me into a girl. But that’s another column.

Of course when it comes to actually saying out loud and in public that that throwing parents in jail for letting their kids drink in the home is so silly as to be laughable, things get tricky. As with smacking children (and I’m not picking a side on that one here so please, put the cane down) drinking can in cases of abuse lead to horrifying and tragic results. But recognising that should not automatically mean that any opposition to (or joking about) alarmist law-demanding should be seen as not taking the problem seriously.

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2 Responses

  1. Alcohol advertising can also convey a confusing message. One that i’ve noticed today: the first is a local chain pub promoting its upcoming “wine festival” with attractive poster (2m tall, on the street) urging passers-by to come in and sample a variety of wines. Then at the bottom of the poster the web site address of http://www.drinkaware.co.uk – are they condoning it, endorsing the event, urging caution, or what? Doesn’t really matter – the kids unfortunate enough to have walk to and from school in Surrey will see it twice a day, every day for a month.

  2. Okay, that was quite funny. Good post.

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