The state alcohol law, the unfulfilled promise for two decades


Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
17 September 2023 Sunday 04:24
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The state alcohol law, the unfulfilled promise for two decades

2001. That was the year in which a law began to be talked about (and promised) against the consumption of alcohol by minors, the legal drug (in the words of the Ministry of Health) most consumed by adolescents. The first to announce it was the then Minister of the Interior, Mariano Rajoy, and behind him, the rest of the Ministers of Health who preceded that Government that began the 21st century.

The last attempt came from the hand of María Luisa Carcedo, the minister who managed to prepare a text, endorsed by medical and scientific societies, but which, once again, was left in a drawer. Her predecessor, Carolina Darias, promised in 2021 to bring it to Parliament, but she left without doing so. In 2022, Health began the public consultation process prior to drafting the text, something that was already done in 2018 with Carcedo. But Darias argued that due to the time that had passed, it was advisable to "open a new consultation period." Reality? That the legislature ended without the law that is supposed to protect minors who, according to numerous studies, begin to consume alcohol at a very early age, despite the prohibition of purchasing this product before the age of 18: the Occasional consumption begins at an average of 14 years of age, and more regular, weekly consumption begins at 15.2 years of age.

And despite the fact that scientific evidence (assumed point by point by the Ministry of Health) indicates that adolescents are very vulnerable to alcohol "because they are in stages of development", with conditions to the liver, pancreas and brain, and because " "interferes with the maturational development of the central nervous system." In addition, they appeal to “psychosocial damages” such as “worse academic performance”, possible “family conflicts” and “cause of accidents”.

All this data was heard for months from the mouths of the experts who appeared in the joint Congress-Senate commission against drugs and which were later collected in the presentation Minors without Alcohol, chaired by the then popular deputy Carmen Quintanilla.

What did that text propose? It focused on greater surveillance of points of sale, especially in those small stores where the identity of the buyer is not checked. Increased sanctions for its owners and its closure in the case of recidivism were being considered. This requires greater collaboration from the different administrations and more support for the local administration, according to the report.

Another measure was to reach agreements with the industry to reduce the price of non-alcoholic beverages, currently comparable to alcoholic beverages. And change the mandatory advertising message of “moderate consumption” or “it is your responsibility” to “not a drop of minors” and “zero tolerance for minors.”

Also, limit the advertising, promotion and sale of alcoholic beverages, especially those referring to offers that induce abusive consumption (also in adults), such as open bar, happy hour, 2x1, or similar (there are countless versions).

More inspections, more training (especially for hospitality professionals), more education for kids, more alternative programs... With what resources? The mixed commission for drugs was clear: allocating part of what is collected from special taxes.

We will have to wait for another new legislature to know if this law will finally be a reality.