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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 22:23 GMT
Spain clamps down on teen drink binges
Vodka on sale
Teenagers share large bottles of alcohol at huge parties
The Spanish Government wants to raise the minimum drinking age from 16 to 18, in a move targeted against huge outdoor drinking parties which have become increasingly popular.

Public drinking would also be banned, and the sale of alcohol more tightly regulated under the plans, announced Interior Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Tens of thousands of Spanish youngsters are estimated to take part in the drinking parties every weekend.

The parties, known as "El Botellon" - or Big Bottle - have prompted a backlash from residents angry at the noise, rubbish and violence which the drinking sprees generate.

Advertising reduced

"The government wants to draw up basic norms prohibiting alcohol consumption in the streets, and raising the minimum age to buy alcohol to 18," said Mr Rajoy.

The announcement came at a congress in Madrid on youth and alcohol consumption.

Other measures which were unveiled included:

  • Restricting alcohol advertising
  • Introducing heavier penalties for premises which sell alcohol to minors
  • Banning drinking in public places.

Mr Rajoy cited a study which found that most Spanish youngsters started drinking at the age of 13. Of youngsters aged between 14 and 18, about 76% were regular drinkers, the study said.

The authorities in Madrid have already been trying to clamp down on the festivals.

Young people trying to reach the city centre with the large bottles of alcohol shared at the parties have been turned back.

Cheap drinking

Police also search them for weapons.

The sharing of large bottles began in the 1980s, as a way of buying alcohol - mainly beer - more cheaply.

But the practice caught on and spread, and most participants in the binge drinking sessions now choose spirits rather than beer.

Residents from some of the most popular party locations have begun fighting back against the tide of rubbish and urine, by staging street protests calling for action.

See also:

20 Feb 01 | Health
Teenage drink and drugs in Europe
20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
10 Jul 99 | Health
Youngsters hit the bottle
01 Feb 01 | Health
Cannabis 'damages mental health'
14 Aug 00 | Health
Binge drinking 'can damage brain'
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