That is one of the take home messages from a paper published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The research was carried out with young people who have chosen not to drink (or who deliberately only drink very little) and they told the interviewers they felt that all too often not drinking was not presented as an option. Rather the focus was on reducing the risks from drinking:
Some young people felt that this emphasis on moderating drinking and managing drinking situations reinforced assumptions about drinking being a normative behaviour. In comparison to the emphasis on the dangers of drugs, sexual behaviour and smoking, there was little or no sense of censure of the activity of drinking alcohol and the prevailing assumption was perceived to be accepting of teenagers drinking alcohol.
As this year’s survey of English school pupils suggests that less than half of all secondary school children have ever drunk alcohol. Perhaps we do need to be clearer that alcohol isn’t a norm, and that not drinking as a young person is very much an option.