The Portuguese government has passed a new drinks law that has retained the minimum age of 18 for drinking spirits but reduced the legal age to 16 for the consumption of beer and wine.
“It would be an extreme measure on the part of the State to prohibit a person of 17 years of age from drinking an ‘imperial’ (half pint glass of beer), said the Secretary of State of Ministries, Luís Marques Guedes.
The new law involves a fine of up to €30,000 for the illegal sale of spirits, such as vodka or whisky, to anybody under 18 and the premises could be shut down for as long as three years.
The legislation, however, has been fiercely criticised by medical expert Fernando Ramalho, a trained hepatologist, who commented: “It is the most ridiculous regulation I have ever seen. The effects of alcohol are the same whether it’s wine or vodka. The interests of the purveyors of alcohol are overriding the health interests of the Portuguese.”
The Secretary of State For Health, Fernando Leal, has refuted the claim of giving way to the alcohol lobby and claims the current legislation will eliminate 50% of alcohol consumption among young people.
He added that strict controls and inspections would be put in force to minimise the risk of over indulgence or illegal sale to under-age drinkers.