French deputies vote measures against teen drinking

Fri Mar 6, 2009 9:14am EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - French parliamentarians voted on Friday to ban so-called "open bars" that offer unlimited drinks for a fixed entry price as concern has grown about alcohol abuse by young people.

The law, which specifically excluded wine tastings after objections were raised by deputies from wine-growing regions, will also lift the minimum age at which a person can buy alcohol to 18 years from 16.

The measures are included in a broader health law that is expected to be passed in the National Assembly on Wednesday and will be examined in the Senate next month before it can come into force.

France is ranked 11th in the world in alcohol consumption, according to figures cited by the government but consumption has declined steadily from 17.7 liters a head per year in 1961 to 9.3 liters in 2003.

France does not have the alcohol-fueled scenes that plague British town centers, but there has been increasing concern about drunkenness among school children and students.

The English expression "binge drinking" has been adopted by the French press to describe a phenomenon which has alarmed a country that prided itself on a tradition of introducing teenagers to wine gradually at the family dinner table.

According to figures cited by health authorities, hospital admissions of young people because of alcohol-related causes rose by 50 percent between 2004-2007 and 11 percent of 17 year-olds say they regularly drink alcohol.

"Although the level of alcohol consumption by head of population continues to decline in France, there is a worrying rise in massive alcohol use by young people," a report introducing the legislation said.

The government has issued a campaign including a special Internet site and a television ad in which an idyllic beachside party of the kind that often features in alcohol advertising, degenerates into an ugly debauch.

(Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by James Mackenzie)