Balearic teenagers start drinking alcohol when they are fourteen. Between that age and eighteen, 75% of them say they have drunk alcohol, 50% have taken part in a "botellón" street-drinking party over the past year and 17% say they have drunk on at least one occasion.
These are official figures from the regional government's public health department and were presented at a press conference called by Fapa (federation of parents associations) in Majorca. The theme of this presentation was "minors, alcohol and popular festivities".
The government figures, actually released in February, are based on a survey of teenagers during 2014 and 2015. Compared with a previous study, there was a fall in the level of drinking but not an especially significant one, while the age of starting drinking was the same. The 2012-2013 survey indicated that 86% of under-18s had drunk alcohol at some point, while 60% had attended a botellón and 27% had been drunk on occasion.
National data suggest that 32% of teenagers drink to a risky level at weekends, which is a worrying finding, says Montse Juan of Irefrea, a professional network dealing with the prevention of risks to minors. Juan points out that there is much evidence to link alcohol consumption to sexual aggression. "When more is drunk, there is a greater possibility of there being aggressors and victims."
The data further suggest that it has become "normal" for the young to drink. Fapa is, therefore, insisting that efforts are made to prevent alcohol consumption and to coordinate activities of different groups. The federation is particularly concerned by the level of drinking during fiestas, with drunken parties assuming a sort of cultural value of their own and a new model of entertainment.
Joan Marc of the office for the defence of the rights of minors says that there have been measures taken to prevent drinking, such as town hall bylaws, but there continues to be "active consumption" by teenagers during fiestas. Fapa believes that it is necessary to arrive at coherent solution to the problem, stressing that there needs to be change in perception among young people and society in general.
The Balearic Institute for Public Safety has been engaged in giving talks in schools aimed at prevention, with particular attention paid to end-of-course parties, such as the massive "macrobotellón" that takes place each June in Puerto Alcudia. The Balearic Youth institute stresses the need for there to be other types of entertainment for the young as well as messages which make clear that fun can be had without drinking.
The regional health department is undertaking a campaign this summer which will highlight risks to teenagers - alcoholic poisoning, sexual aggression, accidents, addiction, cancer, mental health issues and others.
Gloria Ferrer of Fapa concludes that the whole of society has to assume its responsibilities. "It isn't an option; it is an obligation on behalf of responsible adults."