The World Cup appears to have passed without any serious incidence of drunkenness or major disorder in England’s pubs and bars. Following the generally orderly introduction of the new licensing regime, the country’s licensed retailers should probably give themselves a pat on the back But it’s certainly no time for complacency. The threat of further controls over alcohol - its consumption and sale – is still all too real. Yes, we’re talking about alcohol again. The reason is simple. The storm that is gathering around the world’s favourite legal drug promises to completely overshadow the global campaigns against both smoking and obesity. The big story this last week was over research showing that early drinking can be linked directly to alcohol problem in later life. Those that start to drink alcohol in their early teens are not only more likely to become alcoholics than those who stay away from alcohol until they're 21, but develop dependence on alcohol faster, and face a longer struggle with alcohol throughout their lives, the US study concluded. It’s importance was not just that it added weight to the argument for clamping down further on underage drinking, but that the story was carried in media around the globe. Alcohol misuse and its effects on health and anti-social behaviour is a worldwide issue. The world’s media was liberally littered with other booze-related news reports too. In Britain, newly released NHS statistics showed drink-related hospital admissions in England have reached record levels, with cases of alcoholic liver disease more than doubling in a decade, and alcoholic liver disease deaths up by 37%. This coincided with the Finnish government, which is about to take over the EU presidency, saying it hopes to see an increase in excise duty on alcohol across the Union. This was topped off by news from the US that many universities are introducing alcohol awareness classes for freshmen and evidence from New Zealand that more young people are dying in that country since it lowered the age limit to 18. This all makes the launch of the industry-endorsed nationwide Challenge 21 campaign aimed at cracking down on underage sales even more timely. The initiative involves people under 21 being asked, as a matter of course, for ID to prove they are over 18. Signing up seems a “no-brainer” for pub and bar owners.. Given the campaign from the anti-alcohol and health lobbies that’s building, retailers could be forgiven for taking the extra step and introducing a blanket over-21 only policy for drink sales in their businesses. Why take the risk? There are two distinct arguments here. There is a strong case for individuals to start putting the libertarian view for personal freedom and against further control legislation. There is also the pragmatic business case of removing yourself as far as possible from the problem – and these are not mutually exclusive. With the shift in demographics over the next five to 10 years, why bother with the youth market at all? The over 30s, over even over 50s, is where the action is going to be long term, after all. The licensed retail market needs to build up a strong responsible position to protect its future. Distancing itself as much as possible from the underage problem is no bad tactic. Peter Martin is the founder of Peach Factory.