Police raid highlights dire situation with underage drinking

A police crackdown on underage drinking at the early-December holiday of Mikuláš was revealed this week to have been disconcertingly successful. The four-day raid on nearly four thousand bars and restaurants found some 600 intoxicated teens and over 400 infractions of alcohol sales to minors. The finding brings new emphasis to the government’s anti-drug and alcohol strategy, as the director of the government board for drug policy, Jindřich Vobořil, told us when he spoke to Radio Prague about the situation with earlier today.

Photo: European Commission
“There is a study called ESPAD which shows that the average number of 16-year-olds in Europe who have experience with drinking is about 38%; in the Czech Republic it is 48%, nearly half of the population. I think that is alarming.”

I guess you weren‘t particularly surprised then by the results of the police “Mikuláš” raid.

“No. I was the person called in to cooperate with the police. The idea was to send a message to people who give alcohol to people aged 16 and younger. It’s not “underage drinking” as such that I’m concerned with, but rather the statistics across Europe that tell us that people aged 16 and younger have repeated experience with problematic drinking and intoxication are more at risk to develop other addictions, including addictions to illegal drugs.”

Jindřich Vobořil
What measures will the government’s drug policy board be suggesting in order to combat alcohol use among teens?

“I’m proposing two areas to look at. One is a massive preventative campaign to turn public opinion towards the idea that, no, it’s not right for young people to have experiences with binge drinking, especially those who are younger than 16. And then the second area is to look at better legislative approaches directed at owners of pubs and bars who are not careful enough about giving alcohol to young people – or children, rather, because that’s my concern. In this country the measures are very weak at the moment. If people are found giving alcohol to 14-year-olds, for example, they get a penalty of 3,000 crowns. That’s the usual situation. And commonly the person who is punished is not the owner but the waiter.”

How can an image campaign really change the attitudes of young people towards alcohol in such an alcohol-loving society as the Czech Republic?

“It’s not only about young people; we have to make the adult population aware that it’s risky, because some of the research shows that adults are very liberal with this. And regarding the campaign with young people, it’s more about communication through new media, like the internet.”