By Stefanos Evripidou
CYPRUS HAS the second highest level of accessibility of alcoholic drinks for minors in nightclubs across Europe, parliament heard on Thursday.
Deputies heard the “alarming” statistic at a joint session of the House Education and Health Committees yesterday where the Education Ministry and Anti-Drugs Council presented the results of a Europe-wide study into alcohol consumption among underage persons.
According to the results, Cyprus comes eight out of 35 European countries when it comes to the accessibility of buying alcohol for those under the legal age limit of 17.
The European average is 37 per cent while Cyprus recorded 49 per cent accessibility in this category.
Regarding the accessibility of alcoholic drinks in night bars and clubs for underage drinkers, Cyprus came second, scoring 69 per cent accessibility, compared to the European average of 45 per cent.
MPs further heard that one in two school children aged 15 and 16 told researchers that they bought alcohol in the last month for personal consumption, while 44 per cent said they have drunk five or more drinks in one sitting.
The parliamentary committees were also informed that in a recent police campaign, over 100 checks were conducted in nightclubs in all cities, but no violations of existing laws on underage drinking were observed.
Head of the Anti-Drugs Council Chrysanthos Georgiou expressed concern about the results of the study, and called for steps to reduce access to alcohol for underage pupils.
He also highlighted the need to amend the relevant legislation and implement measures to tackle the phenomenon, like increasing the age limit for buying alcohol, making it obligatory to show your identity during any purchase of alcohol, and conducting police checks at kiosks outside schools.
House Education Committee Chairman DISY MP Giorgos Tasou said the results were worrying.
“We need to see how we can correct this situation… These problems are not new, they are long-standing,” he said.
Tasou said a draft proposal to make showing one’s ID obligatory was under discussion.
AKEL MP Irini Charalambidou described the results as “alarming”.
She referred to the recent discussion over whether a Limassol court wrongly showed leniency in three cases involving road deaths or accidents.
Charalambidou argued that when the state so easily protects those caught drink-driving, who cause road deaths, “it should not surprise us that the research presented today demonstrates that the issue of drink-driving is also downgraded in the conscience of adolescents and adults”.
The AKEL MP highlighted the inadequacy of police checks on nightclubs to see if they were serving minors, pointing out that in the last two years, only 16 charges were made regarding the offence.
“It is a common secret what happens in night clubs and that underage drinking takes place,” she said, calling for tougher laws and penalties.