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Shop owners have role in booze battle; DAILY POST YOUR VOICE IN WALES.

IT is a source of national shame that Wales sits on top of a European league table for underage drinking. The social ills that lead to this drinking - and the social ills which come as a consequence of that drinking - are well documented.

So too are the range of ideas to change the path young people are taking so that they can be steered away from the bottle, or the can.

But changing behaviour takes time, too long for the long-suffering people of North Wales to wait without any direct intervention.

That is why this newspaper has applauded the efforts of North Wales police to make young people face the consequences if they are caught consuming alcohol.

The force has already led the way with initiatives such as that in the Colwyn Bay area where police carrying breathalysers go on the beat to catch young people boozing in parks and on the street.

The latest initiative comes from Anglesey and it takes the fight an important stage further - to the shops which provide the booze.

The Bottlewatch scheme involves bottles and cans being marked with tamper-proof stickers.

When alcohol is confiscated from youngsters the police can trace it back to the point of sale, where some difficult questions need to be asked.

In some cases it will be shopkeepers turning a blind eye to the fact that their customers are under age. That's criminal.

Sometimes there will be a "middle man" - an older person buying the booze to sell on to the youngsters. That's criminal too.

But what about the part-time shop assistant on their own and facing a gang of lads heading to the counter with a menacing look and a 24-pack of beer?

Are they going to take the blame when all they are doing is feeding the appetite of young people for booze which has been whetted by the "buy in bulk" bargains offered by the retailers they work for?

The real value of this crackdown will be to identify certain companies who are so eager to profit from selling booze on the cheap that they take no heed of the consequences, whether that is children with alcohol problems, intimidated shop staff or parks and playgrounds strewn with smashed up beer bottles.

If the alcohol was not so cheap and readily available, a huge problem would immediately be made more manageable - and that's something we could all welcome.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 23, 2008
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