…as Portman Group tackles under-age drinking problem

The Portman Group, the drinks industry organisation, is to set up a taskforce to study ways of combating under-age drinking.

It will oversee the launch of between six and eight pilot schemes in different parts of the country this autumn to work with schools and youth clubs to find ways of stamping out the problem.

The move comes after the explosion in the number of so-called “alcopops” – like alcoholic lemonade – last summer, which were criticised for appearing to target under-age drinkers.

The newly appointed director designate of the group, Jean Coussins, says 250,000 will be spent setting up the schemes, which will recommend ways of stopping retailers breaking the law by sell-ing alcohol to under 18-year-olds.

The task force will be chaired by Coussins, and include representatives from the police, magistrates and other interested groups. Whitbread’s strategic affairs director Simon Ward will also sit on the task force.

Coussins says: “There is a clear problem of under-age alcohol abuse and the status quo is unacceptable. Woe betide retailers who continue to sell alcohol to under-18s, but we will also try to persuade under 18s that it is damaging. We are planning to consult and involve under-18s, to give them a voice.”

The task force will recommend to the Government ways of enforcing laws against retailers who sell alcohol to under-age drinkers, or of introducing tighter restrictions.

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