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Asturias raises legal drinking age from 16 to 18
TEENAGERS under 18 in the northern region of Asturias will no longer be able to buy or consume alcohol from this May thanks to a change in the law which has been on the table for a decade in the only part of Spain where drinking is legal from age 16 upwards.
The youth prosecution service and many health associations have been calling for Asturias to raise the minimum drinking and alcohol-purchasing age to 18, in line with Spain's other 16 autonomously-governed regions, since 2005, but it is only now that political leaders have taken action.
From May 1, anyone under 18 caught drinking alcohol will be fined up to €600, which his or her parents or legal guardians - as the adults responsible for the culprit at law - will have to pay.
Bars or shops caught selling alcohol to anyone under 18, or allowing them to drink it on the premises, could face fines reaching €600,000 or even permanent closure.
Despite the fact young men and women aged 16 and over having always been able to drink legally in Asturias, the actual consumption level of alcohol in the region among this age group is no higher than in the rest of Spain, statistics show.
The regional government's resistance to increasing the legal minimum age has its roots in Asturias being Spain's largest producer of home-made cider, and politicians not wanting to affect the industry by outlawing a chunk of its potential consumers.
Initially, the law change was going to make it illegal to advertise all alcoholic drinks, but protests from the cider-manufacturing industry meant this particular beverage was 'let off', providing it had a registered certificate of origin - in the same way as Feta cheese, Greek yoghurt and champagne.
Now 16- and 17-year-olds have less than six weeks left before they are banned from drinking, but they will still be able to go into wine merchant's, inns or traditional llagares - taverns specialising in cider - or any other premises which is specifically geared towards selling alcohol, provided they are accompanied by an adult aged at least 18, and they will not be allowed to drink.
When under-18s are on the premises, these locales will not be allowed to run offers such as 'two shots for one' or 'happy hour', but in response to protests from the catering sector, they will be permitted to operate open bars at specific events only such as weddings, private parties or New Year's Eve celebrations.
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