No more vino for Milanese teenagers

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The Independent Online

For the first time in Italy's wine-steeped history, a city government has banned alcohol for those under 16 in an effort to curb drinking problems among youths.

A measure approved in the northern city of Milan on Friday calls for fines of up to €500 (£430) for younger teens caught drinking and for those who give or sell them alcohol.

Italy has no minimum drinking age, only a rarely enforced ban on serving alcohol in public to those under 16.

A glass of wine with a good meal is a pillar of the country's food culture, and it is common to see children sharing a sip with their parents at restaurants.

But in recent years alcoholism among youths has become a concern for authorities as teens have increased their consumption of stronger beverages and taken up habits like binge drinking.

In Milan, 34 percent of 11-year-olds have had problems with alcohol, the municipality said in a statement. Overall, 22.4 percent of boys aged 11-18 and 13 percent of girls in Italy have drinking habits that pose a health risk, according to the National Observatory for Alcohol.

Other cities have prohibited selling alcohol to youths, but officials in Milan stressed this was the first comprehensive ban on drinking in Italy. On Saturday the news got the front-page headline of the country's top daily, Corriere della Sera, which filled two pages with comments on the pros and cons of prohibition for teens.

The ordinance will take effect Monday and results will be evaluated after four months, said deputy mayor Riccardo De Corato.

Under the ban, parents will be notified if their children are caught buying or drinking alcohol, he said, adding that the new rules would be enforced in "every store, bar, pizzeria, night club and restaurant."