The new government's plan to overhaul the licensing laws leaves me with that 'here we go again' feeling. It's hard to believe that we will not be burdened yet again with more bureaucracy and yet I thought part of Mr Cameron's manifesto was to cut back on all the red tape.
I do recognise there are serious issues that need to be tackled such as binge drinking and underage sales, but the emphasis always seems to be on us retailers, as if we are the sole source of these social problems. While I believe that those outlets that do knowingly sell to children should be punished, the whole test purchasing scenario places retailers under pressure. Surely. good old-fashioned policing can root out most of the sources of supply to those underage and deal with it. You only have to ask most 16-year-olds and they will tell you who's supplying the alcohol in the area.
If we ensured that no retailer was able to sell to under-18s, would that stop kids wanting access to alcohol? Most certainly not.
Proxy purchasing is the biggest problem, and it's not uncommon for parents to buy for their children. I recently refused a regular customer a sale as he was standing at the counter with his 16-year-old daughter. He said he accepted that she would get access to alcohol, and he wanted some control over it.
Has anyone ever been prosecuted for proxy purchasing? I have never seen it reported and many customers claim not to know that it is an offence.
We have to accept that alcohol is imbedded in our culture. Yet we wonder why children want it. Surely we need to teach them the dangers, like the tobacco campaigns of recent years that have seen such positive results. Is it time for our cans of lager to carry pictures of a cirrhosis-infected liver?'