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Heidelberg pushes nighttime booze ban to curb youth drinking

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Heidelberg pushes nighttime booze ban to curb youth drinking
Photo: DPA
11:13 CEST+02:00
After repeated problems with publicly intoxicated young people, the city of Heidelberg wants to implement a law banning late-night alcohol sales sooner than the planned 2010 start date.

“We are currently exploring whether the planned state-wide law, which would ban the sale of alcohol after 10 pm, can be moved ahead of schedule in Heidelberg,” Mayor of the university city Wolfgang Erichson said on Tuesday.

In May the Baden-Württemberg state cabinet approved the rule to ban the sale of beer, wine or spirits at gas stations and kiosks late at night, but details still need to be clarified before state parliament approves the law.

But officials in Heidelberg want the ban by summer after headlines of youth boozing shocked residents in recent weeks.

In late April, some 300 junior high students transformed the banks of the Neckar river into a sea of broken glass during a daytime party, forcing the German Red Cross to wait on standby with an ambulance to treat the injured and drunk students. Five intoxicated students were hospitalised for excessive alcohol consumption and a 13-year-old girl lost consciousness.

According to police spokesman Harald Kurzer the problem has reached a new dimension.

“For a long time, high school students and graduates showed exceedingly high alcohol consumption rates, but the junior high students were relatively inconspicuous,” he said.

Some 80 percent of the teens get “completely hammered” at parties, he said, adding that in situations with an abundance of alcohol present, violence often breaks out and police have to intervene.

Helmut Seitz, an executive for the centre for alcohol research, reported that the average age for a young person's first drink is around 12 or 13-years-old. The expert said he supported “a full ban on alcohol sales after 10 pm,” adding that a sizeable price increase could also help.

For Mayor Erichson, the junior high school student incident demonstrates growing alcohol abuse among youths in the city.

“There are more extremely intoxicated adolescents and young adults than ever before,” he said.

In addition to the late-night ban, the city also hopes to strengthen the alcohol prevention programs, especially in schools.

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