Confessions of a teenage binge drinker

Like most teenagers, I was an underage drinker. And like most underage drinkers, I got hold of booze in three ways: I smuggled out spirits from the drinks cupboard, I got an older teenager to go into the off-licence and get it for me, or I simply went into the offy myself and bought the booze from a seller who didn’t give a toss whether or not I was old enough to drink.

When you’re an underage drinker, the choice of drink comes down to one thing and one thing only: how pissed it can get you and how quickly. So horrible cider and fortified wines are the drinks of choice, and from what I can see of the current lot of piss-heads shouting and bawling their way around Glasgow city centre on a Friday night, nothing’s changed.

When you stop being an underage drinker, your relationship with booze changes slightly – as in, you’re less inclined to drink paint in the hope it’ll get you plastered. But judging by the howling morons in Sauchiehall Street, price still isn’t a factor. If it were, the hideous booze factories where the barely legal get utterly blasted on overpriced bottled beers and Bacardi Breezers would have gone out of business a long time ago.

So I’m a bit baffled by the Scottish Justice Minister’s plans to curb supermarket booze promotions. I can see why the licensed trade thinks a curb on supermarkets is a good idea – they’re getting stuffed because people are, quite rightly, staying at home instead of paying £3-odd for a pint; it’s cheaper to drink petrol than beer these days – but I genuinely don’t see how making booze slightly more expensive is going to do a single damn thing to change Scotland’s dysfunctional relationship with booze.

Our relationship with drink is a cultural thing, not a financial thing. How will a minor price increase change that?





0 responses to “Confessions of a teenage binge drinker”

  1. mupwangle

    >>…drink paint in the hope it’ll get you plastered.

    You can tell you don’t know DIY. ;-)

  2. God forbid the powers that be should ask *why* people want to get hammered every weekend.

  3. Gary

    Indeed. It’s not just lad culture.

  4. Gary

    You can tell you don’t know DIY.

    Nah, I’m just really pissed.

  5. To be fair, the powers that be do ask why people get plastered all the time. Their answer is the same as their answer to why people become criminals: “Poverty breeds desperation.” It’s completely the wrong bloody answer, but their firm belief in its truth does explain their concern over the price of booze.

  6. “To be fair, the powers that be do ask why people get plastered all the time.”

    Yes, they ask “why people get plastered all the time” (and seemingly conclude – wrongly – “because they can afford to”). However, I said the powers that be never ask “*why* people *want* to get hammered”, which is a different question. It’s not simply a question of availability.

    “Poverty breeds desperation.”

    Which, while a sweeping generalisation, is at least bit more materialist a explanation than the essentialist rubbish about a societal residuum that others seem to favour.

  7. Gary

    Yes, they ask “why people get plastered all the time” (and seemingly conclude – wrongly – “because they can afford to”).

    Oh god yeah. If price controls worked nobody would still smoke, and nobody would take drugs. Whereas people simply cut their cloth to reflect the higher prices so they can continue to do it. Or steal your telly to finance it. In every other addiction-related arena price controls just fuel the black market, whether it’s people flogging Drum from behind the bar or bottles of whisky cut with all kinds of crap (tangent: some of the stuff in counterfeit booze is terrifying).

    I do think there’s a link between poverty and problem drinking, same as there’s a link between poverty and drug abuse, a link between poverty and smoking, between poverty and bad diet, etc. But anti-social drinking of the sort that makes the city centre hellish each weekend isn’t a class thing, or an income thing. It’s yahoos as well as neds, bright young things as well as daft wee shites, pillars of society as well as pill-poppers and so on. And I do think that the UK is pretty much unique in that respect. But I’ve no idea why. Any ideas, anyone?

  8. I’ve tried to reply to this thread about four times over the last few days. I’m jsut so lost for words I cannot articulate my contempt for this bollocks.

  9. Gary

    But Tony, it’s for our own good!

  10. mupwangle

    >>I’ve tried to reply to this thread about four times over the last few days. I’m jsut so lost for words I cannot articulate my contempt for this bollocks.

    It’s just because you’re pissed, isn’t it? ;-)

  11. Could be.

    Another take on Mr E’s point: Last week we went for a 2-4-1 pizza in Beir Halle Republic. Got screwed £3.65 each for a pint of pretty foul beer (something or other ‘Honey Brown Lager’ – for future reference). As soon as we’d finished that we legged it round to the Counting House for a pint of Weston’s organic and fabulously potent Old Rosie Cider. So, ok, there’s an example of a special offer leading to more drinking.

  12. Gary

    Every single beer I’ve tried in that place (that is, beers I hadn’t already heard of) has been overpriced and bloody rotten.

  13. mupwangle

    There is sufficient empirical evidence to prove that raising the price of alcohol will reduce anti-social behaviour. They’ve proved it with other schemes.

    Lung cancer has died out due to tax hikes on fags.
    Congestion is a thing of the past due to the increase in road tax and petrol duty.
    Speeding is also at a record low since they started increasing the number of speed cameras giving instant fines.
    Since the council banned happy hours in Glasgow – it is now the safest city in the world.

  14. Thing is, who really cares about underage drinking? Are a significant number of people really upset that fifteen-year-olds sometimes get pissed? Not really, no. We all did it, and most Britons regard it as part of growing up and essentially harmless. What people are upset about and do want stopped is fifteen-year-olds getting pissed and then hanging around in the street in groups of twenty assaulting passers-by. And the thing about that is that it should be illegal regardless of whether they’re drunk. What the Executive need to do to address that concern is to get the police and the judiciary to crack down on casual vandalism and violent crime. Instead, they appear to be intent on reducing the chances of significant punishment for people who behave like that. Reduce the disincentives for something and you will get more of it. No use blaming supermarkets for that.

    Britain has always had a binge-drinking culture, going back centuries, at least. I’m not convinced there’s necessarily much wrong with that. The problem with drunken criminals is their criminality, not their drunkenness.

  15. Gary

    I think it’s time to dust off the “how about enforcing the laws we already have?” chestnut. But as ever, it’s true.

  16. Vaguely related: Holyrood Chronicles points out that apparently government smoking policy (for young ‘uns) is working, so why up the age to 18?

  17. A policy that’s working? Oh dear. The problem with that is that a load of people were given the job of making the policy work. So they are faced with a choice between saying “Mission accomplished! You can make us redundant now,” or redefining the problem. See also the changing definition of “poverty”.

  18. mupwangle

    >>so why up the age to 18?

    That’s such a shitty thing to do. Allow people to become legally addicted to someone then make feeding that addiction illegal. If they had made it 21 then I think you would have had riots.

  19. Well, that’s no different to any other ban, is it? Most drugs were legal once.

  20. mupwangle

    It’s not usually so selective though.

  21. Gary

    DK’s in typically sweary mode about the plans to target people who drink at home. Some excellent figures on the money raised by drink duties too.