A bill set to be voted on this month would raise the drinking age from 17 to 18.
Currently, for most, the drinking age is simply a recommendation as lax enforcement allows many minors to be served – be it at corner shops, bars or clubs.
Many young people are not even aware what the drinking age is since it is so loosely observed.
The bill, tabled by Green Party MP Charalambos Theopemptou, has up until now been well received in parliament and has cross-party support.
It would also increase the fine for selling drinks to minors from 35 Cyprus pounds – it has been a while since the law was updated – to €300.
To highlight the ready availability of alcohol to minors, Theopemptou pointed to a ‘mystery shopping’ study, carried out by the University of Cyprus and the drugs authority, which saw 300 underage people attempt to buy alcohol. In only ten cases were people asked for ID.
Asked about the drinking culture in Cyprus, Theopemptou told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that: “It’s true there is not a lot of daily drinking among the young people, such as in other countries, but actually there is a lot of binge drinking”.
He referenced studies by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs (ESPAD) which consistently find Cypriot students to be overrepresented in the binge drinking category.
The latest, in 2015, found that Cyprus was 15 percentage points above average.
“In the [United] States it’s an offence for a barman to serve a drunk person drinks,” Theopemptou said. “What the drugs authority here wants to do is make sure that whoever serves drinks is also to trained to identify drunkenness.”
The Green party MP said that the bill has been warmly received but some parties are now taking a step back after lobbying from various associations which are involved in the drinks business.
Theopemptou concluded by saying that the World Health Organisation recommends the drinking age to be set at 21 but 18 is a step in the right direction.