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Germany

Addiction Experts Fear Binge Drinking Trend in Germany

Bar offers which include all drinks at under a euro and vacation-themed nights fuelled by buckets of sangria are the stuff of raucous holidays abroad. But these and other booze bargains are now taking hold in Germany.

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No half measures: Germans are being encouraged to drink as much as they can

Hot, leisurely days spent in beer gardens nursing stein after stein of ice-cold ale; boisterous swaying and singing in crowded halls with frothy brew on tap -- the more well-known of German drinking habits conjure up images of dedicated boozers in for the long haul. But a disturbing new trend with the younger crowd is causing concern.

While binge drinking seems to be a national sport in Britain, the practice of necking vast quantities of alcohol in a short amount of time has until recently failed to find a foothold in Germany where beer making is a tradition and drinking it is a pastime to be savored.

However, thanks to the well-publicized introduction of an alcohol flat-rate in Hanover clubs, Germans may be on the brink of descending into the same violent, vomit-sprayed drinking culture which is the current bane of their island-dwelling neighbors.

Entry prices at bars and clubs in Hanover range from four to eight euros ($4.83 - $9.66) and then from there on in, the sparkling wine, vodka and gin flows freely.

Deutsche trinken Sangria am Ballermann auf Mallorca

It may be the scene in Mallorca but do you really want to see it in German bars?

Offers such as the 99-Cent Party, where every drink costs under a euro, or the Mallorca Party where sangria is served by the bucket, are helping bars attract customers in an extremely competitive industry.

But the practice is worrying health officials in Germany, a country which is already among the front runners in alcohol consumption in the European Union.

Fears that price dumpi n g will e n courage you n gsters

Rolf Hüllinghorst from the German Head Office for Dependency Matters told the DPA press agency that "landlords are acting irresponsibly" and that price dumping offers need to be controlled if the scourge of binge drinking isn't going to add to the temptations and dangers open to children and young people across the country.

Lower Saxony's conservative social minister, Mechthild Ross-Luttmann, has also appealed to the club operators to act more responsibly when dealing with young people.

The Hanover landlords have defended themselves by saying that they would never entice young people to drink excessive amounts of alcohol for the sake of it.

One bar manager, Jan Witte, claims that he has no knowledge of such overtly boozy behavior and wild alcohol parties at his establishment.

"My club is not a binging center and has no shooters bar (a selection of cheap and powerful single measures)," he said.

This goes against the advertisement on his club's Web site that says "for those who can't get enough down their neck, there is now the flat rate every Thursday and Friday."

Witte defended this by saying people could also drink as much mineral water and soft drinks as they like.

Legal age limit n o guara n tee

While many bars and clubs advertise the bargain sessions as "All You Can Drink," the majority make it clear that identification bearing the date of birth will be required upon entry.

Alcopops

More young people are seeking treatment for alcohol problems.

The law stipulates that young people under the age of 18 are not allowed to be served alcohol. However, while most bars are very strict at adhering to the rule, young people continue to turn up as casualties of alcohol in hospitals and as patients in addiction clinics across Germany. It seems obvious to state, say some but turning 18 does not immediately furnish a young drinker with a sensible attitude to alcohol consumption.

The authorities in Hanover have joined forces to assess the threat and apply pressure on those clubs which consciously or otherwise encourage cut-price drinking binges in the city.

Addiction experts and state ministers continue to discuss the dangers while police and other emergency services deal with the realities on the ground. While plans are considered, however, the cheap alcohol continues to flow.

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