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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
Should licensing laws be stricter?
Drinking a pint of beer
People in Britain want tighter licensing laws to reduce the impact of alcohol on our health, a survey for the BBC has found.

The ICM report, commissioned as part of BBC News' Healthy Britons poll, suggests many people are worried about the amount of alcohol they drink and also about the binge drinking culture.

Eighty-seven per cent of those questioned felt the government should put more funding into initiatives to ensure that under-18s cannot buy alcohol.

And just under 80% wanted more safe drinking campaigns - but two thirds still said it was up to individuals to decide how much they drank.

Are you concerned about alcohol consumption? Should licensing laws be stricter? Should alcohol be classified as an illegal drug?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

There must be more to life than getting drunk
Barry, London, England
We seem to be the worst country in Europe for this and seem incapable of having a long, leisurely quiet drink and chat. Too many people on too small an island. There must be more to life than getting drunk, but judging by my local high street at 11pm it would appear not. Somewhere down the line we have gone drastically wrong. We live in a society which rejects personal responsibility. When we recover that many of our problems will start to fade away. The question is how?
Barry, London, England

Not a single contributor to this debate has pointed to the surest way to curb consumption: taxation. It is a word that crosses every mind but never passes any lips. Everybody wants a civilised society provided somebody else pays for it. Britons love their booze and want it cheap.
Justinian, Orpington, UK

Working as a taxi driver, I see people's attitudes first hand. Young people get drunk at home on cheap cider before going out (because it's cheaper). Plenty are already drunk at 8pm. It's not the licensing laws, it's people's attitude that's at fault. When Euan Blair was found face down in the gutter from drink, all the papers dismissed it as 'something everyone does'. Therein lies your problem

I think the main problem is the fact that the bars normally close at 11 and kick you out by 11:30. Here in Spain I have been talking to some people about the binge culture and they think, as I do, that it is because there is so little time to drink for us in the evening that we drink really quickly to meet that 11 o'clock deadline of being drunk. If bars were open later then there wouldn't be the pressure of drinking as you know you can't last until 6 o'clock at the same rate you would normally drink on a Saturday night. Furthermore, this would cut down on some of the violence which happens at around the 11:30 time when everyone is on the streets drunk.
Rich Meadows, Madrid, Spain

While spending three months working in Denmark earlier in the year where drinking laws are very relaxed, the only aggression and violence that I saw was from Swedes on a night out or a booze-cruise. The fact that the UK and Sweden both have very strict laws and a "drinking culture" problem is not a coincidence. Even on the final day of the Danish football season which was also the day of the Copenhagen carnival there was no trouble and a minimal police presence.
Sam H, Newbury, UK

I fully support people's freedom to do what they like as long as they don't harm anyone else, but may I point out that it is quite easy to have fun without drinking. I do not drink and never have, and it makes no difference to my capacity to enjoy myself. I have never had a hangover, got into a fight, vomited over someone or woken up next to a stranger, and I save a fortune. Bring on European cafe culture, please!
Eve, Edinburgh, UK

The Government could have the guts to tax drinks by their alcoholic content
Barry P, Havant, England
When I was a small child in London in 1953 my mother told me that there several types of beer, including singing beer and fighting beer. I sometimes think she was right, in that the move away from the low alcohol beers, bitters and mild of the 50's towards the recent high alcohol lagers and alcopops has coincided with an increase in problems in the streets. Maybe rather than extra laws that will not work, the Government could have the guts to tax drinks by their alcoholic content, to price out the problem without making people criminals. It worked in the late 18th century when the country had a gin problem, perhaps it is time to try that approach again.
Barry P, Havant, England

To those people who want the drinking age lifted to 21. Anyone who is old enough to join the army and die for their country is old enough to have a drink!

I lived in Switzerland for 10 years and there it is legal for 16 year olds to drink beer and wine. Drunken teenagers just do not exist. Instead the Swiss youngsters are more interested in conversation and their appearance. Vomit and Gucci do not look good together. I think it's all about personal pride and confidence. - two things European youngsters have bucket loads of.
Jack, Scotland

Licensing laws should be relaxed for public houses and licensed cafes/restaurants to allow people more time to enjoy a drink in a less hurried climate, however maybe nightclubs should be more tightly controlled on what types of strong alcohol they serve and in what quantities
Graham, Cardiff. South Wales

I am visiting Japan at the moment. You can see a lot drunk people here but never any of the aggression that you see back in the UK. The British anti-social behaviour or aggression is not a function of dinking time laws, more a function of either people or society.
Dean, Surrey/ Tokyo

Enforcing the current law would be a good start
Joe, Bristol, UK
I've worked in a pub, the law is an ass, if you refuse to serve a drunken person, they start trouble. If you do serve them, they start trouble. There is no solution. Maybe enforcing the current law would be a good start.
Joe, Bristol

We are adults, not children. We can make our own decisions, and the government should really be concentrating their efforts elsewhere. The antiquated laws that force pubs to close at 11:00pm are the main cause of binge drinking. We are no longer at war. The laws need to change.
Kurt Weil, Aylesbury, UK

What ever happened to education, why aren't we tackling issues like this and teen pregnancy in the schools? Also if a person is violent or has violent tendencies then alcohol makes it more apparent but it should not be used as an excuse, the old "I was drunk" excuse is used way, way too often.
Helen, Cinderford, Gloucestershire

Here we go again, is there not an original idea in the head of anyone in this country? The reason for binge drinking as well as other "anti-social" behaviour is the lack of personal responsibility in the UK. If people were treated like adults, made to take responsibility like adults the problem would reduce. Continental countries have far more liberal licensing laws but you don't see them throwing up on the street do you?
Paul, Manchester. UK

Licensing laws should be relaxed and the drinking hours lengthened for everyone reducing the 11pm hell experienced in towns across the UK. I feel like I have never grown up the way we are treated in this country - let's move into line with other European countries on this matter and treat out citizens with the respect they deserve! The 11pm watershed is an insult to our freedom.
James Dickerson, Wimbledon, UK

Just before I left the UK I remember seeing a documentary about how much of the local police budget was taken up by policing drunks in city centres especially at weekends. Why not charge a huge licence fee such as estimated police costs divided by number of late night licences for those establishments that want to serve alcohol until the early hours to off-set the police costs that way maybe there won't be so many places that teenagers can get boozed up as part of a group trying to prove who is the biggest drinker etc.
Roger, Santa Cruz USA [Ex Pat]

Simply reverting the outdated world war one law would eventually calm people down
James, New York
Binge drinking in the UK is both a result of culture and licensing laws. In the middle ages Beer was a means of drinking non-contaminated water. Other parts of the world, such as Asia boiled their water. There is a scientific argument that genes carry this history. The licensing laws and "round" culture fuel the drink up mentality and cause many to binge drink. Simply reverting the outdated world war one law would eventually calm people down. People will not be spilling out onto the streets, having downed their last drink before time is called.
James, New York

What a load of rubbish! People have enjoyed getting drunk since booze was invented. Everyone I know enjoys a drink and does not necessarily have to go and start fights. Leave it to the drinkers to decide if they've had too much.
Chris, S London

Standing in the wet and cold waiting for a taxi along with the other 400 people in town all having to go home at the same time will get a sober persons back up. Being drunk just enforces this. Yet again the government is trying to solve a problem but looking in the wrong place for the answer.
Mike, Southampton

License the person not the establishment. Everyone should have a drinking license, which they must show when buying booze. If you misbehave then it is withdrawn and you are not allowed to drink in a pub or purchase alcohol in an off license or supermarket for a period of time. Second offence double the ban, third offence triple the second ban, etc. Long sentences for those caught drinking without license, close the pub if they are caught selling to minors or non licensed people. Oh and increase drinking age to 35 (21 still far too young - I'm over 35 so I'm alright then). That should stop the alcohol abusers.

This country is obsessed by changing laws to combat its problems
Anon, UK
This country is obsessed by changing laws to combat its problems. The increase in the legal age to smoke, new licensing laws, banning the production of sexual images in teenage magazines. Why can the public not changed their attitude towards all of these things. Changing the law is only going to create unnecessary paper work and increased agro for the police force trying to enforce the new laws. People should learn to be responsible for themselves the government isn't a babysitter.
Anon, UK

I avoid certain pubs as the customers are well under 18 and behave like spoilt kids. They may have lots of money to spend, but I wonder, if in the long term the pub makes that much profit as seats/carpets get damaged and at least one person vomits in the pub every night.
Caron, England

I am returning to the UK after 3 years in Canada. I have never seen the fighting and yob culture there, which is highly visible in the UK today. The Canadians still manage to have a good time and drink plenty without the notion of killing each other in the Kebab house at 2 am. What does that say about the UK today?
Gavin Langley, Bedford

It is the British attitude towards alcohol that is the problem
Lee, Castleford
The licensing laws in this country were much stricter in the 70's and 80's but as I remember kids still managed to get hold of booze. It is the British attitude towards alcohol that is the problem. We preach to our kids that it is some kind of forbidden fruit and then wonder why when they reach 18 they have such a lust for it. We should be looking to the continent if we want to find out how to curb this country's drinking culture as they don't have the problems with alcohol we have.
Lee, Castleford

Why not just add something to alcoholic drinks that increases the severity of the hangover you suffer the next day? Personally I restrict what I drink because I get the kind of hangovers that can wreck 3 days never mind the morning after and I know I'm not the only one. If people knew they were going to be totally incapacitated for several days they would drink far more sensibly.
Vik, UK

The problem's not licensing, but planning. Binge drinking is driven by peer pressure and egging on. Put lots of people all together in a very tight location with little other than bars to go to and it's obvious what will happen. Changing licensing laws will have little effect, making drinking locations much further apart from each other so you can't go bar to bar easily will have a far greater effect.
Martin, Ely

Why should I face restrictions just because a minority of morons, who don't know how to behave, insist on drinking themselves into oblivion? I know what's good and bad for me, and in what proportions. I'm quite able to make my own judgements without the help of our increasingly sanctimonious society marking me out of 10 - leave me alone!
Paul B, Oxford, UK

Extended hours should be given if music and dancing are available, say until 2am. Youngsters will 'shimmy' the effects off and get out their pent up energy. Secondly good coffee should be brewed in the pub bar starting at 10pm and offer it for free or a token cost. Secondly any bar that wants to stay open until 2am would have to offer hot food from 10pm onwards. In some eastern European countries they make a soup that stops a hangover - but then that would a stretch. Drunkenness was always about drowning your sorrows - this young generation is lost and unhappy - blame the current state of world politics for outrageous behaviour.
Rombrit, Sheffield, UK

Personally, I'll stay home and have a nice bottle of wine and watch TV
Mike, Ipswich, UK
On the continent, if you walk in a bar, there is a complete mix of people from every social class, drinking all sorts of different drinks and having fun together. Go into a UK pub and the vast majority of the clientele are lager swilling low-lifes trying to string sentences together between obscenities. Personally, I'll stay home and have a nice bottle of wine and watch TV.
Mike, Ipswich, UK

I fail to see the point of licensing laws¿ Do the authorities not realise that you can store beer and wine at home?
Derek Gogley, Reading, Berkshire

Have you seen the prices of soft drinks in a pub? I recently got charged £2.50 for a pint of coke. There is no incentive to not drink - this is what needs to change.
Sara, Cambridge, UK

Regardless of drinking hours, I reckon the major cause of excessive consumption is the "round buying" ethic that exists in British pub culture. Example, four people go into a pub, the first buys a round, then when they've all had four pints, someone fancies another, so the first one buys another round and off we go again! The other three feel obligated to follow suit because they will be thought mean if they don't and the first one doesn't object 'cos he doesn't want to subsidise the others!
Neil Allen, Brit in France

Pubs should be forced to make an effort to promote non-alcoholic drinks
Robin Massart, Oxford, UK
We don't need more licensing laws, what we need are different licensing laws. Pubs should be forced to make an effort to promote non-alcoholic drinks such as coffee or fruit juice. The biggest problem in the UK is that after 8pm the only drink you are likely to be served is alcoholic. There's nowhere to go if all you want to do is have a chat over a nice cup of tea or coffee.
Robin Massart, Oxford, UK

Binge drinking raises a very simple principle - personal freedom. Why should the majority suffer because of the minority? The answer is simple, tagging. We are all familiar with the security tagging systems used in the high street, if you try to get past the scanners with a tagged item, the system goes off. If a lad or ladette falls foul of the law, they should get tagged for, say, 2 years. Problem sorted. We need effective enforcement of the law, coupled with effective deterrents.
Mev Brown, Edinburgh, Scotland

After seeing the police having to mop up the after effects of binge drinking, I wonder whether the government should bring in a new tax on licensed premises to help pay for this extra policing.
Ian, Southport

The Government relaxed the licensing laws to allow all the new bars to open up in city centres. This would have been ok if they had introduced 24 hour opening at the same time. But now we have the worst of both worlds with hundreds of people spilling out at 11pm having downed their last pints because of drinking up time. No cabs, no buses, nowhere else to go, just milling around and we are surprised when trouble breaks out?
Tim H, UK

When I lived in England I regularly saw pub fights and drunk people passing out or vomiting in the street
Sam, Germany
I am a UK citizen currently living in Germany. Bars and pubs are open all hours, and the legal drinking age is 16. When I lived in England, I regularly saw pub fights and drunk people passing out or vomiting in the street. Since moving here, the only fights I have seen have been caused by the younger members of the American military stationed here (some of whom could not legally drink before being stationed here as they are under 21). German culture, with its seemingly constant beer and wine fests, does not seem to have the same problem as the UK, and people tend to take a more responsible attitude to drinking than in countries who are stricter.
Sam, Germany

The UK's policy of tight drinking laws have got us where we are today. People get violent when they run out of places to go before they run out of steam. Only providing places to go till 6am and getting rid of the 20 minute limit on drinking up will relieve this problem. If people could stay in a pub after alcohol had stopped been served, perhaps even being served coffee, there wouldn't be a sudden glut of people trying to find somewhere else to go or taxis to get home.
David R, Plymouth, UK

Laws in the UK don't need to be tightened. Britain is already "laughed" at by the rest of Europe for having strict closing times at 11pm. More education and trying to change the country's attitude is what's needed.
Craig Baxter, Cologne, Germany

I don't see why my freedom to purchase and enjoy a legal drink should be restricted due to the moronic behaviour of others. Instead of making it harder and harder to buy a drink, how about cracking down on drunkenness in general? I don't mean the usual tactic of picking on the middle class gent who's had a few and is a little unsteady but not causing trouble to anybody, I mean the ones who go out and get ratted and then go around smashing up anything they take a dislike to. If they can't pay for the damage they cause then enrol them in a chain gang and make them put something back into society in as humiliating a manner as possible.
John B, UK

Social pressures should encourage moderate drinking
Peter, Nottingham, UK
Few alcoholics drink in pubs anyway. Why pay £2.50 for a pint of lager when the same money can buy you 3 litres of white cider from a supermarket? Countries with less totalitarian licensing laws (Spain, France, Italy) have far less problems with alcohol. Conversely those that massively tax it (Finland) and restrict sales have far more alcoholics. Drinking should be as social as possible. Social pressures should encourage moderate drinking whilst shunning "binges".
Peter, Nottingham, UK

I think the laws already in place should be enforced properly as it would stop under age drinking in bars and clubs. This in turn would stop a lot of trouble that has sadly become familiar in our towns and cities. I think it's about time the government introduced 24 hour drinking laws as this would mean people wouldn't spill out onto the streets at the same time. This is the main cause of drink related violence. It works in the rest of Europe so why shouldn't it work here?
John W, Sheffield, UK

Brits drink all day when faced with bars that are open all day and all night on the continent because the current licensing laws encourage binge drinking. Allowing bars to stay open for longer will cause some people to go out later, and drink at a slower pace because they are not racing against the clock anymore.
Dave, Ealing, London

Current laws already ban sales of alcohol to the underage and those already intoxicated, and make it a criminal offence to be drunk and disorderly in public. The problem is no-one takes any notice of either provision. Perhaps if more attention were paid to enforcing existing legislation we wouldn't have the distressing spectacle of completely ratted 16 year olds falling out of every pub and club on a Friday night, stoically watched by the local constabulary.
Helen, Bradford, UK

The legal age of consuming and buying alcohol should be increased to 21
Toni Carter, Birmingham
I think the legal age of consuming and buying alcohol should be increased to 21. And like America we should be stricter on asking for ID. No ID, no drink!!!
Toni Carter, Birmingham

Of course it should be controlled much, much more. But who's going to enforce it? Excessive alcohol consumption (and the tendency for people to think of it as "cool") is the UK's most depressing and destructive cultural trend.
Louise, Lincoln, UK

It would help if the existing law was enforced and the licences of the more disreputable bars revoked.
Frank, Bristol, UK

No!! Why has the rest of the civilised world got it right and yet with our draconian laws we are having so many problems? Anyone here who has lived and worked abroad will tell you that with longer opening hours comes more 'relaxed' drinking, and people not trying to down as much as possible before last orders then suddenly finding that many rushed drinks suddenly catch up on them.
Chris, Preston, UK

Surely we don't need to tighten the licensing laws, the ones we have just need to be enforced! I have never, ever seen a drunk person in a pub being refused another drink, yet isn't this against the law?
Nicola, UK

In theory, it should be up to individuals. However, time and again, Brits seem determined to prove they cannot handle alcohol. Whereas people in most other countries are able to handle the fact of bars being open all day without feeling compelled to drink all day, we seem to have a problem with this concept. All of which leads to the conclusion that, yes, we do need stricter licensing laws. That, or else a major campaign to educate people to be more responsible.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK

I think that all clubs, pubs and bars etc should demand ID from absolutely everyone to curb the presence of under-age youngsters in such establishments.
Steve, UK

Over the last few years licensing authorities have been concentrating pubs and bars into the centres of our towns and cities. Inevitably this has led to problems at closing time. What needs to be done now, is to re-assess the controls on opening times in a more flexible way, and move away from the policy of concentrating clubs and bars in city centres. Britain also needs to learn a culture of self-control. We can enjoy ourselves without overindulging!
Peter Guberg, Southampton, UK

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