German Politicians Call for Increasing Drinking Age to 18 | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 13.03.2007

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German Politicians Call for Increasing Drinking Age to 18

Numerous politicians have demanded that alcohol be banned from minors in Germany. Currently, German kids over 16 can drink beer and wine, which health experts say promotes dependence when teenagers are still developing.

Even beer could soon be off-limits for kids under 18 in Germany

Even beer could soon be off-limits for kids under 18 in Germany

Federal drug commissioner Sabine Bätzing and Maria Eichhorn, drug commissioner for the conservative Christian parliamentary party, have praised plans by the European Union to ban drinking for minors.

"Every chance to keep young people from becoming dependent on drugs should be taken advantage of," Eichhorn told thed Berliner Tagespiegel daily.

The opposition Green party has also welcomed the move.

"If people take protecting young people seriously, then they need to see to it that selling alcohol to minors is outlawed," said Harald Terpe, spokesperson for drug issues for the Greens.

The free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) criticized the idea, however.

"Repression is not the answer," said Detlev Pfarr of the FDP, adding that young people have to learn to deal with alcohol in a responsible way.

Eichhorn, however, said Germany's current laws governing the sale of alcohol to young people require better enforcement.

Young drinkers in Germany

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Health experts warn that kids should be informed about the effects of indulging

The legal drinking age in Germany is 16, though kids must wait until they're 18 to drink spirits. Studies have shown that excessive -- or binge -- drinking has increased dramatically in recent years in Germany and other European countries.

Health experts warn this can have particularly harsh consequences for young people since their bodies, including their brains, are still developing.

Changing the drinking age to 18 is not enough, according to many health experts who said that health awareness campaigns are also necessary.

Eichhorn agreed. "Kids must be informed in schools about the drastic effects of consuming legal and illegal drugs," she said.

Last October, the European Commission presented a strategy against alcohol abuse, pledging to support programs combating alcohol-related illnesses, curb underage alcohol consumption and push the industry to promote responsible drinking.

The plan, which was intended to target binge drinking and drunk driving, particularly among young people, stopped short of calling for a ban on alcohol advertising, opting to educate rather than restrict the industry's sales or publicity.

"It's not the product we're dealing with, it's the excessive consumption," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

EU estimates show about 55 million adults, or more than 10 percent of the bloc's population, drink at harmful levels. Alcohol is the third biggest cause of illness and early death in the EU, killing 195,000 people a year.

Kyprianou said though age limits for buying drinks exist in every EU member state, they are not rigidly enforced and minors still have access to alcohol.

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