The botellón is a major cause of concern where underage drinking is concerned. | cRISTI


Early in the new year the parliamentary procedure will start for legislation that will prohibit alcohol consumption by minors. The law is scheduled to be approved in time for the summer and it will be the first time that Balearic legislation specifically refers to the drinking of alcohol by minors. The sale of alcohol to minors is already outlawed.

The director general for public health, Maria Ramos, says that the legislation will incorporate preventive measures. These are yet to be specified, though it is understood that there will, for example, be a ban on any publicity that might encourage underage drinking.

The law will also promote responsible drinking by adults. Ramos's department is to draw up an action plan for prevention and build on lessons learned over the past summer. Fiestas were a particular target of the government, the Council of Majorca and town halls in promoting responsible drinking by those of an age to drink and in warning about the risks associated with alcohol to all young people.

A model for town halls to adopt in regulating alcohol consumption is to be developed, and there is a further plan for creating free and healthy leisure areas for the young.

The legislation will have a regime of fines for drinking on the street and other public areas, e.g. beaches, and also for public and private establishments. Felib, which is the federation for town halls, says that town halls will adopt this regime and not allow drinking on the streets except at fiesta times.

It needs stressing, however, that town halls already have the means to take action against drinking on the streets. It is a question of whether they enforce their own bylaws and have the police manpower to make these bylaws effective.

The town halls' federation recognises that the problem with underage drinking during fiestas been increasing over the past ten or more years. The main focus for the problem is the fiesta night party. This was once a small and local event. It no longer is and attracts young people from out of town in a way that didn't used to be the case.

While the numbers have increased, so also has the level of drinking. Yet local authorities need to accept that they themselves have contributed to the problem. A case in point has been the "macro-botellón" in Alcudia in June. This massive party for the end of the school year has attracted thousands of youngsters from various parts of the island. And drinking has of course been a major factor.

Greater clarity with the proposed legislation will doubtless be forthcoming. At present it isn't clear how prohibitive it is intended to be. Does it extend to private homes? If so, it would be unenforceable, and enforcing a ban in more general terms must be open to some doubt.