France bans sale of alcohol to minors

March 9, 2009 2:13:34 PM PDT
French lawmakers passed an amendment Monday to ban the sale of alcohol to minors, part of an effort to tackle the rise of binge drinking in a country known for a relaxed attitude toward a little libation. The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, moved to ban the sale of alcohol to teens under age 18 and subject violators to fines of up to euro7,500 ($9,400).

The change, if passed in its final form, could mark the beginning of a cultural shift. The French are among the world's top consumers of wine but proud of their tradition of moderation. And some give their children watered wine with dinner from a young age.

The drinking age in France currently varies depending on the type of alcohol involved and the place of sale. But anyone 16 or older can order beer and wine in bars.

The vote was the first legislative step on a proposal floated by the conservative government last fall. Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot wants to make it illegal for minors to buy any type of alcohol in any setting.

The amendment was approved in a debate Monday on a vast hospital reform law that still requires passage by the Assembly and the upper house of parliament, the Senate.

Assembly lawmakers also approved an amendment that would forbid the sale of alcohol overnight at automotive service stations. Another would authorize limited advertising for alcoholic drinks on the Internet.

Bartenders rarely ask to see ID cards in France, but that would change if the bill passes. Binge drinking of hard liquor and cocktails is a growing phenomenon among youths in France, where teens have typically grown up sampling wine in a controlled, family setting.

Bachelot has said the number of alcohol-induced hospitalizations for minors under age 15 grew 50 percent between 2004 and 2007.

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