The misuse of alcohol by young adults, adolescents or even children periodically becomes a focus for public concern. The occasional rampages of drunken soccer ‘fans’ or disorderly behaviour by ‘lager louts’ have, on several occasions, led to intense mass media interest in heavy or problematic drinking by young people. This topic has recently been the focus of three British reports (British Medical Association 1986; Home Office 1987; Tuck 1989).