Lauterbach against “supervised consumption” for under-16s

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Germany is the country that drinks the most alcohol in the world. This emerges from a study recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO). Mathematically, everyone in Germany over the age of 15 drank just over twelve liters of pure alcohol in 2019. Worldwide consumption was on average 5.5 liters. More recent data could not have been reliably evaluated due to the corona pandemic.

Alcohol poses significant health risks, especially for young people. That is why, according to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), minors under the age of 16 should not drink anything. Not even if their parents are there and say yes to a glass of beer or wine.

Youth Protection Act allows alcohol under supervision

This is exactly what allows this so far Youth Protection Act (external link): Young people aged 14 to 16 can drink wine or beer in public if a parent is present and gives permission. This includes, for example, having a beer while eating in a restaurant. Otherwise, they are not allowed to drink or buy alcoholic beverages in public. You can only legally buy wine and beer in stores from the age of 16, and high-quality alcoholic beverages only from the age of 18.

Health Minister against “drinking with others”

For Lauterbach, the situation is clear: “From a health policy perspective, there can be no two opinions on this issue. So-called ‘drinking with someone else’ should be banned.” The presence of adults does not change the fact that alcohol is harmful to children, the health minister told German newspapers.

Bavarian Health Minister Judith Gerlach (CSU) sees things similarly to Lauterbach. Gerlach also calls for the current exception regulation to be abolished. Because it makes no sense with regard to prevention goals.

The WHO is also clear in its assessment and calls alcohol “a toxic, psychoactive and addictive substance”. Alcohol consumption in general is decreasing. The WHO also recommends: “Less is more”. Because there is no such thing as risk-free alcohol consumption.

Recognition of addiction counseling centers

Lauterbach’s plans are also supported by the organization “Blue Cross Munich e. ​​V”, which supports drug addicts and their families. It coordinates around 70 self-help groups in the Munich region and offers prevention services in schools. Spokesman Norbert Gerstlacher told BR that he applauded when he heard about Lauterbach’s ban plans. Gerstlacher points out the risks of alcohol, especially for young people. “Alcohol is a neurotoxin and can cause brain damage, especially in young people,” he emphasizes.

Gerstlacher criticizes the fact that there is not enough discussion about how alcohol can harm health. In his view, two other points are also problematic: if under-16s drink alcohol with their families in a pleasant environment, they perceive it as a positive experience. Later, it may make sense to turn to alcohol to replicate this feeling. And: the earlier young people are allowed to drink, the sooner a sense of normality will emerge. Being allowed to drink at 14 can also convey a feeling of “welcome to the adult world.”

For Gerstlacher, it is clear: the special permit for young people aged 14 to 16 must be abolished and, in addition, awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol consumption must be increased. Because this is often neglected, even within the family.

Teens are less likely to be hospitalized with alcohol poisoning

The Federal Statistical Office has also noted positive developments in recent years with regard to alcohol consumption among young people: for the third time in a row, the number of young people who drank too much and had to be treated in hospital for acute alcohol poisoning has fallen. In 2022, there were around 11,500 young people between the ages of ten and 19. This was only 1.3% fewer than in 2021, but 43.1% fewer than before the pandemic in 2019.

The Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) also considers this a positive development in its report “2018 Alcohol Survey Results and Trends” (external link) states: “Fewer and fewer young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have ever drunk alcohol.” Regular alcohol consumption in this age group has also declined recently.

The “Know Your Limit” campaign also aims to educate parents

With the campaign “Alcohol? Know your limit”, the Federal Center wants to make young people aware of the consequences and risks of alcohol consumption. And so I encourage you to use it in moderation – or to avoid it altogether. “Important restructuring processes take place in the brain at least until the age of 21, and these can be interrupted by alcohol. During this period, even small amounts of alcohol can cause considerable damage,” it states.

The campaign also targets parents – experts specifically recommend that they talk to their children about alcohol on an equal footing and be a good role model. On the one hand, this means not drinking too much and not constantly offering alcoholic drinks to guests. They should also “not put their children in the dock” if they drink alcohol. Instead of burdening the child with accusations, parents should better express their own concerns. Another tip: ask why children drink and talk about it. Experts recommend clear rules for dealing with alcohol at home and an “absolute ban on alcohol” until the child turns 16.

Anyone concerned about their child’s or parent’s drinking can contact a family or parenting counseling center, for example. Addiction counseling centers also offer help with alcohol problems. Many also allow anonymous, low-threshold support via email, chat or phone.

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