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Enforcement is key to prevent underage drinking

By Elias Hazou

ONLY a comprehensive approach to preventing minors from having access to alcohol will work, lawmakers said on Monday as they continued discussion of a bill that would raise the legal age for alcohol consumption from 17 to 18.

The bill was tabled by Greens MP Charalambos Theopemptou.

But legislators said laws already exist regulating this issue; the problem is enforcement.

Disy MP Andreas Kyprianou said his party is in favour of better regulation, but added that raising the legal age alone is not the solution.

“The major problem has to do with checks, which we all know are non-existent. We have laws galore, but the objective should be to have in place a broader plan to prevent our youth from becoming addicted to alcoholic beverages,” he said.

Relevant legislation was being drafted by the government, and was expected to be submitted to parliament soon.

Weighing in, Fanos Leventis, head of the Association of Owners of Recreation Centres (Pasika) said raising the legal age would be more trouble than worth it.

He, too, pointed out that the problem lay with enforcement.

For instance, the police cannot enter certain premises to conduct checks, such as banquet rooms or wedding receptions where alcohol may be served.

“It wouldn’t make sense to pass a law which would a priori contain exemptions,” Leventis said.

“We are a tourist country, and I can’t imagine that the police will enter a discotheque and ask to see IDs from patrons, who may be 17 or 17.5 or 18 years old.”

Such laws need to be adjusted to the local culture, he added. Parents, for example, should be encouraged to be on alert and advise their underage children to avoid alcohol.

Legislation alone could not be relied upon to ‘discipline’ youngsters, he added.

During a parliamentary discussion in May 2017, MPs were given an EU report showing that Cyprus then ranked third among 48 countries for high consumption by teenagers.

The EU study showed that 68 per cent of Cypriots had tried alcohol at age 13.

An earlier survey by the University of Cyprus and the Anti-Drugs Council revealed that out of 200 test purchases of alcohol by young people at kiosks, only 11 had asked for ID.

A major issue is the wide availability of alcoholic drinks, sold at any neighbourhood kiosk.

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