Friday, 9 May 2008
"Please, Mum, I want some Tipp-ex"
If my son asked, and I gave permission, he could get married. He doesn't seem keen on the idea. Perhaps he's too busy with guitar, politics, friends and school - probably in that order. He's allowed to buy lottery tickets, though he doesn't, and was briefly allowed to smoke, although that right was withdrawn shortly after it was granted. He doesn't want to smoke in any case.
Soon my son will be able to take driving lessons on main roads but he won't be allowed to buy a drink in a pub until he's 18. He's also banned from buying "intoxicating substances" till his eighteenth birthday. This sounds fine in theory.
The practice is rather different. The Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 makes it an offence for shopkeepers and shop assistants to sell any intoxicating substance to or for someone under 18 if they have reason to believe it may be used for the purpose of intoxication. In other words, if a shopkeeper sells glue to a young glue-sniffer, the shopkeeper may be charged with a crime. The maximum penalty is six months in jail and a fine of £5,000.
I don't know what it's like in other areas but here the shopkeepers simply won't sell intoxicating substances to under-18s. So if my son needs Tipp-ex or highlighters or aerosol deodorant, I can't just give him the money to get them. I'm the one who has to find time to go to the shop. It's making me cross.
I've tried to find a full list of "intoxicating substances." Different trading standards offices list different substances but are careful to say that there are other "intoxicating substances" that hey haven't listed. Here are just a few: typewriter correction fluid, highlighter pens, glue or other solvent-based adhesive, shoe polish, metal polish, nail varnish (and nail varnish remover), anti-freeze, dry cleaner fluid, hairspray, aerosol deodorant, petrol, some paints and paint thinners, pain relief spray.
I suspect that young people keen to sniff such substances will find them if they wish. Meanwhile older teenagers are forced into dependence on their parents when they should be encouraged to grow up.