As another reminder of how uptight Americans are about drinking, we have this article saying the new Harry Potter movie glorifies alcoholism, and, basically, causes it. It's like a headline out of the British tabloid press. I realize Americans are shocked to see under-21 year olds drinking, but, seriously, isn't it maybe time the American Puritan attitude toward alcohol got in line with the rest of the world? Drinking and driving is one thing but I see no reason why 18 year olds oughtn't be allowed to drink.
Now, fixing the alcohol culture in the UK is an entirely other kettle of fish, but clearly it's not an issue with age (which is the same in France and Italy) but with other cultural factors (buying for your mates being one thing that comes to mind) and not something that higher taxes is really "fixing" (let's admit it, it's not reducing consumption, therefore what it's really doing is just raising more money for the treasury).