Place alcohol out of teenagers’ reach: Health Ministry about to get tough on the demon drink

A specter is haunting the country – the spread of alcohol abuse. And a total ban on the sale of alcohol to persons under 18 is part of a package of measures drawn up by the Health Ministry to deal with the problem. The measures were submitted in December 2002 to the ministry by the Committee for Tackling Alcoholism, which the ministry set up on April 23, 2002. The proposals have a two-pronged approach, one of sanctions and one of prevention and treatment. The committee proposes that screening of television commercials for alcohol be banned before 10 or 11 at night, during broadcasts for children and adolescents, and any programs that might be watched by children, such as sports and music events, regardless of the time they’re aired. Bans are also proposed on advertising alcohol at the cinema or during events attended by large numbers of children, the sponsorship of such events by companies producing or selling alcoholic drinks, and on the free distribution of alcohol to children and adolescents. The proposals also envisage forbidding the sale of alcohol to people under 18 in any store, department store bar, cafe, canteen, pizza parlor, snack bar, kiosk, etc., and forbidding teenagers under 18 to enter bar premises. They also provide for penalties for offenders. Under the proposals, the total percentage of ethyl alcohol in drinks would be clearly stated, with 0.5 percent alcohol content being the threshold under which a drink may be considered non-alcoholic. Treatment will be offered by proposed alcohol rehabilitation units, alongside specialized services such as detoxification units, self-help groups, career guidance offices and others. The committee feels that these units could belong administratively to psychiatric hospitals, while drying out could take place in National Health System (ESY) hospital pathology clinics. A national body to combat alcoholism is also deemed necessary. Prevention can be assigned to the existing Organization Against Drugs (OKANA) centers. Finally, the committee recommends there be no minimum permissible limit in breathalyzer tests, that there be compulsory alcohol education during driving courses, training for and monitoring of driving instructors, training for traffic police and license confiscation in cases of violations.