France to raise the legal drinking age to 18
Paris -- French lawmakers have voted to ban alcohol sales to minors as part of a crackdown on teenage binge drinking but dropped contested plans to ban wine tastings and alcohol ads on the Internet.
Deputies in the National Assembly late Monday approved an amendment to a health ministry bill raising the legal age limit from 16 to 18 for both alcohol and tobacco sales, bringing France in line with most of Europe.
With underage drinking on the rise across Europe, according to a recent study, the French bill, which still needs Senate approval, would allow mayors to ban take-away sales of alcohol at night in their towns.
The law will also outlaw open bars, seen as encouraging binge drinking, as well as alcohol sales in road service stations after 6:00 pm.
But the French wine lobby breathed a sign of relief after the text was amended to exclude wine tastings and industry fairs from the open-bar ban.
Lawmakers also backed down on contested plans to expand a 1991 ban on alcohol adverts to include the Internet.
While print, television and radio ads will remain banned, the law will authorise winegrowers and other alcohol producers to advertise online, except on sites targeting young people.
A Europe-wide study released last month suggested that more and more 16-year-olds were becoming regular drinkers, while tobacco and cannabis smoking were falling for the same age group.