By Angelos Anastasiou
THE Anti-Drugs Council (ADC) said yesterday it wants to combat alcohol abuse by reducing access to alcohol for minors, anti-drunk driving campaigns, raising taxes and stricter regulation of alcohol promotion.
Launching the anti-alcohol week that got underway on Tuesday, the ADC’s policy official Leda Christodoulou presented the findings of a survey on alcohol use during a press conference also attended by deputy Police Chief Andreas Kyriacou and acting Director of the Public Works Department, Chrystalla Mallouppa.
The survey found that one in five people aged 15 to 24 reported having gotten drunk over the last year, while one in four in same age group said they consumed six or more drinks on a single occasion.
Among Cypriots overall, the six-or-more drinks figure was common among one in five.
Perhaps more alarmingly, Cypriots rank among the top European countries whose citizens regard driving after consuming two or more drinks a “low risk.”
In Cyprus, 33 road-crash fatalities were attributed mainly to alcohol, while two in every 100 deaths are alcohol-related.
At the same time, teenagers’ access to alcohol from vendors was measured at 49 per cent, significantly higher than the EU average – 37 per cent.
This year’s week-long campaign will focus on adopting best practices in combating the effects of alcohol abuse, mainly aimed at reducing it among people of non-drinking age – 17 in Cyprus.
According to ADC official Stelios Sergides, international studies have corroborated the link between restricting minors’ access to alcohol and raising the drinking age to 18, with a reduction in the risk of alcohol abuse.
In addition, raising taxes on alcohol, tighter regulation of advertising and increasing access to treatment programmes, was also found to drastically cut the risk of abuse.
Speaking on behalf of Communications minister Marios Demetriades, Mallouppa said that alcohol is by far the single most common cause of fatal road accidents, deemed responsible for a third of them.
“The data from police alcohol tests in relation to speeding tickets issued are equally alarming,” she said. “On average over the last three years, six in 100 drivers are potential kamikazes roaming the streets of Cyprus.”
In order to minimise the risk of such eventualities, Mallouppa said, the Communications ministry has tabled bills to drastically lower the minimum alcohol levels allowed by law to new drivers, motorcyclists and drivers of lorries, buses and taxis, and institute checks for driving under the influence of narcotics.
The anti-alcohol awareness campaign will feature the European Night Without Accidents on Saturday, October 18, which will include free after-midnight bus rides in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca, as well as a “Designated Driver” campaign.