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Young Brits now prefer pubbing over clubbing


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Good to see the great British institution the pub becoming more popular with young Brits. We drink more alcohol, but are "clubbing it" less -

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Drink and drugs

Teenage kicks

Sep 1st 2005

From The Economist print edition

Young Britons are drinking more but popping less

TWENTY years ago, it was the football hooligan. Ten to 15 years ago, it was the raver. These days, the binge drinker is the symbol of lawless Britain. Tabloid newspapers report that young people are gripped by an alcoholic frenzy. Together with doctors, police officers and opposition politicians, they have lined up against the 2003 Licensing Act, which, from November, will permit some pubs to open later. This week magistrates weighed in, predicting an increase in domestic violence, assaults outside pubs and vomit in people's gardens.

Britain's drink problem is undeniable. While Americans and continental Europeans consume the same amount or less than they used to, with sobriety notably on the rise in France and Italy, Britons drink a quarter more alcohol than they did ten years ago. The average Briton swallowed 9.4 litres of pure ethanol last year (see chart).

Binge drinking is increasing most rapidly among young people. Robin Room, who follows the subject at the University of Stockholm, says that Britain has nurtured a “wet generation” like the one that emerged in prohibition-era America. The effects will be noted in coroners' reports: deaths from chronic liver disease among people aged 25-44 have increased almost ten times since 1970.

Meanwhile, though, other forms of hedonism are quietly declining. The mind-altering substances that moralists worried about a decade ago have fallen from favour. According to the British Crime Survey, the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds who used amphetamines in the previous 12 months fell from 12% in 1996 to 4% last year. Ecstasy has also become less popular, which is surprising given falling prices: in many places, a pill now costs less than a pint of beer.

“It's a fashion thing,” says Matthew Atha, of the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, which tracks drug users' preferences. He believes that young people are switching from illegal highs to legal ones as tastes change and messages about the dangers of ecstasy and other recreational drugs sink in. Government policies have also pushed hedonists towards alcohol. A crackdown on illicit raves in the 1990s coincided with looser planning regulations, which encouraged the growth of large pubs in city centres.

Licensing reforms will speed the trend towards old-fashioned intoxicants. Until now, most British pubs have been forced to stop serving alcohol at 11pm, forcing revellers to move on to the sort of venues where drink is expensive and loud music and pills are to be found. When pubs can stay open later, though, more punters will stay put. Mintel, a consumer analyst, reckons nightclubs will lose 12% of their customers by 2009.

Longer licensing hours will probably mean more drinking. But if the worst fears of the temperance lobby are realised, fewer pills will probably be popped. Britain may lose the fight against drink but win the war on drugs.

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