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Drinking age is 18 in most EU countries

The minimum drinking age in the majority of European countries is 18, higher than Malta’s age limit of 17, with some countries however allowing beer and wine to be consumed by 16-year-olds.

A few countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, do not have a drinking age but have laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to those under 18.

Luxembourg and Italy are the only two European countries that have a lower age limit, allowing those over 16 to drink any type of alcohol.

Times of Malta had a look at other countries’ laws following a call for the legal drinking age to be raised from 17 to 18 by Commissioner for Children Helen D’Amato.

Her appeal was met with mixed reactions – parents and guardians agreed with the proposal but those in the entertainment businesses who depended on these clients said it would eat into their sales.

The businesses may not be too bothered by the fact that most other European countries have set 18 as the minimum drinking age.

Belgium, Portugal and Germany do allow 16-year-olds to drink beer and wine but only those over 18 can drink spirits.

Denmark allows alcohol to be sold to over 16s but does not permit the consumption of alcohol by under 18s in discos and bars.

The Netherlands is expected to change its laws from next year, banning under 18s from buying or drinking alcohol.

Raising the age would correct the disparity between Malta and Europe

Owners of bars who cater for the younger generations were obviously perturbed by Ms D’Amato’s strong call.

The last time the minimum age for consuming alcohol in bars was raised was October 2009, when it went up by one year to 17.

They argued when contacted yesterday that raising the drinking age again would take away a chunk of their clients, adding their business had already suffered when the 17 age limit was introduced.

One person who has a different view, however, is the president of the hospitality industry arm of the Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises.

Philip Fenech believes that raising the age would correct the disparity that currently exists between Malta and other European countries.

He acknowledged that most of the section’s members disagreed with him and were against the proposal, especially those who owned discos and fun bars.

Ms D’Amato’s appeal was supported by Sedqa, the national agency on drug and alcohol abuse, which also “strongly recommends” that the minimum drinking age be raised by one year from the present 17.

The fifth European Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (Espad) for Malta, dating to 2011, quotes studies that point to links between alcohol misuse among young people and short and long-term health risks, the use of illicit substances and poor school performance, among other variables.

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