The need for under-age restrictions
Under-age individuals should not drink. Young people are at particular risk of harm from excessive alcohol consumption because it interferes with their growth, nutritional status and personality development. It is recognised that consuming alcoholic beverages increases the probability of an accident while participating in sporting and recreational activities and it diminishes physical, sexual and communicative capacity. The (negative) effects of alcohol misuse are, however, much more pronounced in young people. This is not only due to their physical immaturity but also due to psychological factors.
Furthermore, alcohol affects the brain development in young people, thus, drinking, particularly binge-drinking, at any time before the brain development is complete may adversely affect later brain function (White A. et al, 2004).
Mental immaturityIn addition, young people are greater risk takers than adults but still have poorly developed decision-making skills, factors that are reflected in the high levels of injuries (Miller J.N. et al 2007) during adolescence, The young brain is sensitive to injury from alcohol and is less able to listen to body signs to stop drinking (Spear L., 2004).
The high expectations many young people attribute to alcohol as a social lubricant in removing inhibitions can sometimes expose them to major risks.
Furthermore, the constant process of change and transformation experienced by young people affecting both personality and physiology can rapidly facilitate a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol.
Influence of family
However, recent research from the UK (Bellis M.A. et al, 2007) suggests that teenagers who taste moderate amounts of alcohol at home with their families are less likely to binge drink.
Minimum purchasing age
Supporting respect for underage sales ban enforcement
Legal restrictions covering the minimum purchasing age can only be effective, however, if the respective laws are enforced. Enforcement is very important because studies indicate that under-age youths can still purchase alcoholic beverages regardless of legal limitations. This is probably the result of insufficient or inconsistent enforcement, particularly when there is little concern about law enforcement in the community. The European wine sector will contribute to raising awareness and encouraging societal respect for the laws governing the minimum alcohol purchasing age.
For more details, visit www.wineinformationcouncil.eu