The study carried out by the University of Wales, Bangor, for North Wales police shows that around 70 per cent of 16-year-olds are drinking already. It suggests one way of taking them off the streets and allowing them to drink in a more controlled environment would be to let them into pubs with ID cards.
Landlords would also have to adopt a tougher attitude on the amounts of alcohol being sold to any individual. But alongside this radical solution, the university researchers suggest that the age at which teenagers can buy alcohol across the counter at off-licences should be increased.
Assistant Chief Constable Elfed Roberts, of North Wales police, welcomed a public debate on the most effective ways of tackling the problem and whether changes in the law were required. "Young people by the age of 16, very largely, are quite familiar with alcohol. Some have got into the habit of drinking regularly."
Landlords and alcohol abuse support groups gave a cool response to the idea of lowering the legal age, claiming problems would be exacerbated.
The report surveyed more than 1,200 pupils, aged 11 to 16, in six schools in Gwynedd.