Bar Bar

13 Oct 2006

Under-18s in Italy are no longer to be allowed to drink alcohol in public establishments such as bars, pubs and restaurants. This is one of the terms of the country’s new budget, whose provisions on health were presented by Minister Livia Turco at the beginning of the month.

‘In order to offset the effects on health provoked by alcohol consumption among young people and adolescents,’ the document states, ‘the ban on consuming alcohol in public establishments will be raised to the age of 18 (from the current 16). The sale and supply of alcohol in motorway service stations is also to be banned’. The current law prohibits only the supply (i.e. bar sales) of spirits between 10pm and 6am.

There was agreement from Giovanna Melandri, Minister for Youth, who stated, ‘It’s a ruling I didn’t contest, indeed I’m completely in favor,’ and there has been further approval from health experts. ‘The measure is absolutely right,’ observed psychiatrist Massimo Biondi of Rome’s La Sapienza university. ‘Alcohol changes consciousness in children who are of an age where they are extremely susceptible, it creates dependence and can cause serious health problems.’

Biondi also underlined that Italy has a serious problem with alcoholism, especially in certain parts of the country, where there is a vogue for, ‘a whole range of drinks, which are classified as light but which in fact contain alcohol’. One of these is Spriz, highly popular in the northeast, a mix of Aperol (or Campari), Prosecco and sparkling water.

Figures from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy’s leading public health institute, show that around 800,000 of the country’s adolescents under 16 years of age regularly consume alcoholic drinks, including spirits. And the age at which drinking starts is the lowest in Europe: 11 to 12 years old, compared with the European average of 14.

Though there is much concern that 200 youngsters die on the roads every year through drunk driving, the mixing of drink and drugs is also a cause for alarm. Those who take cannabis, hash, heroin and cocaine often drink alcohol too, to attenuate or accentuate the effects of the drugs, and this increases the health risks.

But what do wine producers think? ‘The law is absolutely right,’ says Vittorio Frescobaldi, president of the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi company, ‘we must educate people to drink wine wisely, from an informed standpoint. In Italy we don’t have a serious problem with alcoholism as do other countries but it is right to act to prevent one from growing. It is better to learn to drink at a mature age: wine has to be drunk with awareness.’

Gianni Zonin, president of the Zonin winery, thinks differently. ‘It seems like a return to American-style prohibition, which turned out to be a fiasco,’ he explains. ‘I would like [Prime Minister] Prodi to remember that we have 800,000 people in Italy, who work, sweat and live off the fruit of the vine. I hope that parliament will modify the measure, and that includes the complexity in applying it to the letter.’

Zonin would also like the EU to set aside a proportion of the funds it derives from wine production for education on drinking wine which, as Pasteur said, is ‘the healthiest and most hygienic of beverages.’

Source: La Stampa

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