Health crackdown on alcohol and tobacco

Health Minister Paulo Macedo is promising big changes to laws regulating alcohol and tobacco. The idea is to cut down on the number of illnesses suffered nationwide.

Some of the more controversial proposals involve banning smoking in all public places, as well as forbidding the sale of drinks with any alcoholic content, no matter how small, to anyone under the age of 18.

Plans also include putting “shocking images” on cigarette packs, as well as introducing rules for electronic cigarettes.

Speaking to journalists in Porto, Macedo said there are “a number of important measures” being planned to “reduce the number of illnesses among the Portuguese”.

“Without a reduction of illnesses, there is no way any national health system can be sustainable,” he stressed, adding that “one of the most effective ways to lower the number of diseases is to reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption, as well as promote physical activity and healthy eating habits”.

While many welcome these changes, businesses like Portugal’s Beer Producers Association (APCV) are not so keen.

Under current laws, 16 year olds are free to buy beer, and even wine, as these drinks have low alcohol percentages.

“It’s not the same for someone to start drinking beer, which has 4% to 5% alcohol, as it is to drink whisky, which can have over 40%,” Francisco Gírio, the general secretary of the APCV said.

Another problem, he says, is that Portugal’s alcohol laws are not respected anyway.

A 19-year-old from Évora recently told RTP that the best clients of many local bars are under the age of 18.

In fact, a study conducted by SICAD, the body that looks into addictive behaviour and dependencies, found that “the purchase of alcohol among minors is easy and generally accepted”.

Thus beer producers say the government should instead invest in campaigns to inform youngsters about the dangers of alcohol consumption, in a bid to “change mentalities and behaviour”.