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Striking a balance

Published:  18 January, 2007

BY Kate Colman, WSTA public affairs manager.
'To combat the supply of alcohol to under-18s, we first have to look at the issue of demand.'

At the recent Publican Conference there was a panel debate on the impact of the Government's social agenda on the licensed trade. The panel was made up of former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Brian Paddick, representatives from the on-trade and one major off-trade retailer. There was the usual finger-pointing about who was to blame for what, and arguments about which parts of the trade were more responsible than others, but an agreement was reached on one subject - education. It was agreed, even by this group of contrary commentators, that alcohol education is an entirely under-considered aspect of this agenda.

Retailers need to understand that the Government has the issue of underage sales firmly on its radar, as does the media. In this context, it is important to be aware that one side (the retailers) face the criticism while another side (the illegal purchasers) appear to be getting away with the offences.

However, pragmatism must be the order of the day until the Government is convinced the problem is not as simple as it hoped it to be. The WSTA has raised this issue on many occasions to make it realise that, until we start addressing this issue of demand, there is no real hope of eliminating unintentional supply.