MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay will seek to regulate the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages and to prevent alcohol abuse by means of a law that promotes health and educational campaigns, with emphasis on the risks the substance implies for young people.
Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez explained the law’s purpose during the presentation of the bill for the Integral Law for the Control of Alcohol Consumption, which he said was prepared in a “holistic” manner by legislators and members of civil society.
Vazquez said that though the subject has been discussed and worked on in the legislature during the two previous government terms, some elements of agreement were missing among the different parties responsible for passing the law.
As for the purpose of the project, the president said no one was looking for a prohibitionist “dry law,” since that will never be “a final solution to the problem.”
“Here we wish to work at an educational level, at a level of informing the public and all parties involved to reach a collective awareness of the problems created by the abusive use of alcohol,” Vazquez said.
The president said that uncontrolled alcohol consumption is considered a public health hazard worldwide “because of its high incidence in global sickness and death” and because “it doesn’t just affect drinkers but also impacts other members of society.”
He also noted that in Uruguay, consumption has climbed over the past few years, “basically among the young, who begin to imbibe alcoholic beverages at a very early age, which boosts their probability of developing a “severe alcohol dependency.”
“Amid our young people, seven out of every 10 alcohol drinkers have been thoroughly intoxicated at least once in the last 15 days. Girls and boys at ages 11, 12 and 13 are seen arriving passed out from drinking at emergency care centers, and that’s dramatic, it’s a reality I don’t think we should hide,” he said.
Along that line, Vazquez noted that teenagers see alcohol as a very low risk drug, which is a heads-up to educational authorities to “try to delay” the first stages of alcohol consumption.
On the other hand, the president said there exists social drinking of alcohol that is acceptable and is not what the bill aims to regulate, since it focuses on drinking that is a risk to health and safety.