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01/04/2007

The Spanish government has decided to put the new Alcohol Law on hold

The government has decided to put the bill for a new law on underage drinking on hold for the moment: they say it has become a source of electoral and political confrontation, and that the health of teenagers must not be used as a tool for electioneering.

The announcement came from Health Minister, Elena Salgado, on Tuesday afternoon. She said the bill will remain on hold until after the local elections this May.

The wine industry had suspended negotiations on the bill just a few hours earlier, when the Health Ministry refused to amend the text in favour of the sector. The sector wanted wine excluded from the proposed restrictions.
Salgado said at a press conference on Tuesday that, before political in-fighting became part of the equation, she believed it was possible to reach a balance between economic interests and protecting health.
She referred to a recent statement from the leader of the Partido Popular, Mariano Rajoy, who described the inclusion of wine as a ‘colossal blunder.'
The Minister gave worrying figures for underage drinking: 65% of 14-18 year olds drink at the weekends, and 34% will have drunk to excess at least once during the past month. She said the neurological damage it causes them is more serious than in adults.
The PP's economics spokesman, Vicente Martínez Pujalte, said the Socialists' decision to postpone was to avoid ‘losing the elections in Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura and La Rioja.'
The Junta de Extremadura on Tuesday formally asked for the bill to be withdrawn, as potentially damaging to their wine industry.
Consumers and parents associations describe the decision to postpone as an error, and giving in to pressure from business.
Some measures included in the new Law are a ban on publicity in public places and restricting television advertising until after 9pm.

El Mundo reports on the health minister, Elena Salgado's decision to withdraw the new alcohol law until after the elections. El Mundo says that the law has been withdrawn after Zapatero demanded that wine be excluded.

El Pais says electoral tension beats the anti-alcohol law.

La Razón considers that the law has been withdrawn so that the Government does not lose the regional elections. It says the health Minister Elena Salgado is not considering her resignation.

ABC considers that it was public opposition which has led to the ‘paralysing' of the law.

Background:

Spain – Government's Legislative proposal to prevent alcohol consumption among minors

On 25 September, the Spanish Ministry of Health published a Draft Act on Health Measures for the Protection of Health and the Prevention of alcohol consumption by Minors. Although limited to minors, the draft represents a significant breakthrough for alcohol policy in Spain, because it establishes a common legal framework for the whole Country, filling and bridging gaps and discrepancies among regional policies.

Since the proposal from the Government focuses on the protection of the health of minors, it will have a better chance of being passed in Parliament because there exists a general consensus that priority should be given to the protection of the most vulnerable groups, i.e. adolescents and children.

Worth noticing are the restrictions on alcohol marketing. The Proposal establishes the minimum purchase age at 18 and, for the first time ever, retail sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises will require a license. In addition, the sale of alcohol will be prohibited at night and in mobile units.

Further restrictions on alcohol advertising are introduced: TV and radio advertising for alcoholic beverages will not be allowed between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.; No alcohol adverts will be permitted on the covers of magazines, and; Alcohol ads will not be allowed in bus-shelters or billboards placed less than 500 meters away from schools. Finally, sponsorship by the alcohol industry of events aimed at minors will also be banned.