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THE boss of pub chain Wetherspoon has said that allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to legally drink in pubs could help tackle the UK's binge culture.

Tim Martin, founder of JD Wetherspoon, claims it would be safer for teenagers to drink alcohol in a "supervised environment" before they get to the legal drinking age.

Speaking to the Morning Advertiser, newspaper for the licensed trade, Mr Martin said "most people" think it is better for youngsters to start drinking in the company of adults, somewhere like a pub, rather that unsupervised teenage parties.

He said: "Though there isn't a panacea for binge drinking, I think people drinking in good pubs has been a civilising influence.

"A dozen years ago everyone [who is now] over the age of 35, including policemen, judges and MPs, started drinking in pubs when they were 16."

He also claimed that drinking in pubs was important in "breaking down social barriers" and that if young people stopped going to pubs it would have a "negative impact on social occasions".

Mr Martin is not the first person to call for over-16s to be welcomed into pubs for their own safety.

Professor John Ashton, former president of the Faculty of Public Health, has previously said that most teenagers were already boozing by the age of 16, and treating them as adults could help prevent unprotected sex and anti-social behaviour.

But Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said allowing under-18s to drink in pubs would be "irresponsible and potentially dangerous".

Mr Shevills said: "Encouraging young people under the age of 18 to drink - no matter what the venue - is irresponsible, potentially dangerous and I have seen no evidence to say that it would prevent binge drinking.

"While there are still too many children and young people drinking, an increasing number are choosing JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2016
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