Call to lower legal drinking age

23 July, 2010

Allowing 16 year olds to drink in pubs could be an effective way of dealing with under-age drinking, it has been claimed by a member of the Isle of Man’s parliament, the House of Keys.

Bill Malarkey, who heads the territory’s drug and alcohol strategy, admitted the suggestion has divided opinions on the island but said it would be a better solution than raising the legal drinking age, as Iceland has done.

Manx law allows 16 year olds to enter pubs if accompanied by an adult, but they can only drink alcohol with a meal.

Some licensees still refuse to allow under-18s because they worry they could lose their licences if alcohol is bought on the child’s behalf.

Sixteen year olds on the Isle of Man are already entitled to vote and drive cars.

Malarkey said: “My personal view, and this is not a government view, is I would rather see my 16-year-old daughter sitting in a pub in a controlled environment having a drink with friends, than sitting in a bus shelter being encouraged by her peers to pinch a bottle of vodka from her house, or maybe buy it from an off-licence and necking it neat.”?Malarkey wants the law to focus on penalising those who buy alcohol for minors, rather than the licensees themselves. He said there needed to be a debate about whether the off-trade should also be subject to a lower legal purchasing age.

Malarkey has already negotiated a code of conduct with retailers, including Tesco and Spar, which restricts alcohol sales to one part of the shop and bans promotional posters for drinks deals.

He said that a minimum unit price for Manx retailers “would only put more money into supermarkets’ pockets” and encourage islanders to shop on the mainland.

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