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French try to put cork in teen drinking binges

Opinion Alcohol and teens are a heady mix, writes Cherie Sivignon in this week’s L’expat.

Before I moved to France I was under the impression that French citizens had a better attitude to the consumption of booze than my New Zealand peers.

And that is true.

My husband Franck, born and raised in France, had no cultural pressure as a youngster to repeatedly binge drink himself into a drunken stupor. He grew up with alcohol in moderation beginning as a child with a watered-down glass of wine during Sunday lunch and it always accompanied food.

His teen friends never chanted witty rhymes such as “eating’s cheating” as they cajoled their mates into drinking yet another bottle of beer with the aim of getting drunk. It was never a goal of his group of friends to go out and get smashed so they could boast about how much they were able to consume, or laugh if their mates had to vomit.

However, Franck is now part of an older generation. Due to turn 40 this year, his teenage years and the cultural attitudes to alcohol of his peers are, sadly, 20 years out of date.

Times have changed in the land of food, wine and politics.

This shift has been accompanied by the teen embracement of foreign popular culture and the introduction of RTDs or alcopops, as the English call those pre-mixed, usually sweet-tasting spirit-and-fizz concoctions.

Like their English and New Zealand counterparts, many French teens now binge drink.

In a move designed to put a cork in the bottle of this unwanted cultural shift, French MPs in the lower house have voted to increase the legal age to buy alcohol, from 16 years to 18 years.

Yep, it is legal for a 16-year-old to buy booze in France, as it is for beer and wine purchases in Germany and a couple of other Western European countries.

The French bill also seeks to ban open bars and the night sales of alcohol at petrol stations, believed to be a prime source of booze for young people.

However, the message behind the law change has been diluted with the legal introduction of alcohol advertising on the internet. Booze will be able to be advertised online, although print, radio and television remain a no-go area for alcohol ads.

Legislators also have plans to up the pressure on smoking by increasing the legal age to buy cigarettes to 18 years. The move follows the surprisingly successful ban on smoking in French cafes and restaurants.

These proposals to increase the age limits for buying alcohol and tobacco are well and good but, as every teenager knows, with a little forward planning (and a helpful 18-year-old) it is easy to get one’s hands on booze and ciggies.

Reversing the change in cultural attitudes, now that would be the trick.

source: Stuff NZ

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