This month sees the introduction of new regulations to tackle underage drinking, and for once the focus is not on the point of sale, but on the drinkers themselves.

While Trading Standards will continue to target stores indeed, the new Policing and Crime Act changes the offence of persistently selling alcohol to under-18s from three test failures within three months to two police in England and Wales now have a wider remit to tackle young people who cause trouble through access to alcohol.

The powers are:

confiscating alcohol from young people police no longer need to prove that the individual 'intended' to consume the alcohol

making it easier to move on groups of young people 'Directions to Leave' can now be issued to people aged 10-15

a new offence for under-18s of persistently possessing alcohol in a public place.

It was a relief for retailers, so often an easy target when apportioning blame for drink-related anti-social behaviour, to hear Home Office minister Alan Campbell announce "a wide-ranging strategy of enforcement and education".

"These powers will make it easier for police to take tough action against those groups whose behaviour can affect a whole community," he said.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker added that the government would back this up with support for young people, by providing them with activities and places to go as positive alternatives to drinking.

This willingness to see the bigger picture was also welcomed by Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO), which has conducted a study of successful partnerships between local authorities, police and businesses.

LBRO chairman Clive Grace said: "Recent announcements have focused on the availability of cheap alcohol, but most people recognise that the problem of irresponsible drinking, and the resulting crime and anti-social behaviour, is a wider and more complex social problem.

"While there is no single 'silver bullet' to cure these ills, we think these examples of best practice by local authorities and police forces are worth revisiting, and have important lessons that could be applied across the UK."

Retailers now have a chance to take part in partnerships that could change young people's attitudes to alcohol.
What we’re calling for:
Government to accept that adults are the main route of supply to children and for it to introduce stronger measures to dissuade them from buying for kids

Enforcement of prosecution of convicted proxy purchasers of age-restricted goods

Investment in community schemes to educate the public on the social costs of supplying age-restricted products to children.