Friday, 19 October 2012

New national law to limit access to alcohol by minors

Partying in Seville
60% of adolescents admit getting drunk at least once, and one in three, within the last 30 days · Law will establish 'common minimums' for the whole country
MADRID The Government is preparing a national law to establish limits for access to alcoholic drinks among teenagers, which will come into effect during this legislature. It is aimed at raising the age at which adolescents begin to drink. This, at any rate, is one of the main objectives of a new law that will bring together and homogenise over 900 regional and local regulations that impinge on the subject of addictions one way or another, according the head of the National Plan on Drugs, Francisco de Asís Babín, in a recent interview with the EFE news agency. COMING SOON: SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION>>>The new law will establish 'common minimums' for the whole national territory, including a minimum age at which a minor may buy or consume alcohol, given its current 'high accessibility' and 'lack of limitations.'

Babín added that the 'very worrying' statistics his agency is handling indicate clearly that Spanish teenagers begin drinking at thirteen, 60% admit to having been drunk at least once, and one in three had been so within 30 days of being asked.

Another worrying factor is the abuse of alcohol, and other substances, over the weekend; in other words, binge drinking, often associated with the botellonas, or gathering of teens and post-teens in public places for heavy drinking and 'partying', usually on Fridays and Saturdays, usually highly visible and audible during the summer, but which also occurs indoors in winter, too. These, says the national anti-drug boss, are often the prelude to drunken behaviour and illnesses associated with alcohol abuse.

Babín mentioned that his objective was top get 'as much consensus as possible' among the regional authorities  though he recognized that 'sometimes it is necessary to approve laws that put up many limitations.'

In Spain there has never been a national law on drug and alcohol dependecy in general terms, but rather a bunch of unequal, confusing laws among the regions, so it is necessary 'to have a minimum of consensus and uniformity' among them all.

The law seeks to establish better control at points of sale, although 'there is no single or magical measure that will allow us to be more efficient in this area,' according to Babín.

Specialists consulted on the subject say that it is essential to offer schools and parents more and better instruments so that they can 'properly exercise their obligation to educate' because 'nobody is born knowing anything'.

However, the law will include the need to detect early cases of behaviourial problems among children, who have a 20% higher chance of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs, and in turn very often become leaders of peer pressure groups.

But the law will be drafted carefully and calmly, so that 'we do not take measures that we know have not worked in the past'. The writers of the law have studied national and international measures and are using them as a 'cultural basis' on which to work.

Babín added that the current financial crisis does not seem to have impacted the figures on drug addictions, the numbers of which have not shown any great increase.

In fact, the latest figures are showing a downturn, except regarding use and abuse of alcohol among adolescents, and in cannabis among adults.

The Government is also intending to take measures against the so-called 'social cannabis clubs', and considers regulation of which to be a 'crass error' because 'this drug is absolutely not innocuous.'

As to the general debate about legalizing drugs, Babín said that this would have 'devastating effects' because it would 'increase drug dependency.'

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