Scientists in alcopops rethink
Alcopops, the controversial fruit-flavoured alcoholic drinks that taste like soft drinks, are too expensive to increase under-age drinking seriously, researchers have suggested, writes Phil Baty.
Alcopops manufacturers have been widely attacked for encouraging children to drink by marketing their products at the very young, with lively packaging, cartoon character logos and product names such as "Bull****", "Liquid Dynamite" and "Purple Passion".
But delegates at a national alcopops conference at Leicester University this week were told that not enough data exist to prove a direct link between alcopops, which were only introduced to Britain in 1995, and teenage underage drunkenness.
Alasdair Forsyth, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow, found that in just two years, alcopops had become the preferred alcoholic drink of 18 per cent of 14 to 15 year-olds. But he blames media overreaction to the phenomenon for giving undue publicity to the product. Several supermarket chains have withdrawn alcopops as public protest has grown. One pub chain, Wetherspoon, banned the sale of alcopops from its pubs.
But early signs show that of the youngsters who do drink alcohol, most were more likely to drink cheaper, more established products. Boys had already identified alcopops as a "girl's drink".
"Alcopops have blurred the boundaries between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks," said Martin Plant, who presented the latest findings from Edinburgh University. "But there is not a problem of youth drinking especially related to alcopops. Young people who do drink will go for cheaper beverages."