Pubdate: Sun, 20 Feb 2000
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2000
Author: Bruce Johnston in Rome


THE increasing popularity of British-style pubs is being blamed for Italian
youngsters hitting the bottle.

According to figures released by the Permanent Observatory on Young People
and Alcohol in Rome, 12 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds now have a "serious
drink problem". The trend, described as an alien drinking culture and a
"worrying new phenomenon", is being blamed on the increasing availability of
alcohol and youngsters' growing desire to get drunk. Roberto Montalto, the
director of the National Association Against Alcoholism, called it the "the
culture of getting wasted". He said: "Alcohol is a drug and is often the
most readily available and affordable. Italian youngsters are treating it
like ecstasy."

Traditionally, alcohol consumption has been sparing, despite the country's
huge wine industry. Now, however, the culture has embraced it, with young
people resorting to drink for its drug-like properties. Mr Montalto said:
"These kids have no idea of what they're doing, since they have no common
drinking culture, as there is in Britain, on which to draw, or even to
abuse." In Rome, where pubs with English names abound, it is common to see
young Italians reeling down the street late at night singing at the top of
their voices.

People throw up in public and cars packed with young drunken Italians are
increasingly involved in accidents. Forty-two per cent of young Italians now
consume all their drink in British or Irish-style pubs and while consumption
of wine has dropped, demand for beer and spirits has shot up. An
increasingly common sight was young Italians going into a pub and ordering
three glasses of malt whisky in half an hour. The measures were unregulated
and often two or three times greater than those served in Britain. Mr
Montalto said: "Because there is no traditional drinking culture, there is
nothing to tell Italian kids what happens when you mix your drinks or drink
on an empty stomach."

One of the most worrying discoveries was that women were beginning to
overtake men in terms of alcohol addiction. "In our group," said a man at
Alcoholics Anonymous in Rome, "the ragazzi [young people] are very rare.
Today unfortunately there are ever more who need help. We are talking about
young people who have begun to drink at 13."
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