A leading road safety advocate is proposing that the age limit for the purchase of alcohol be raised to 21, arguing 16 was much too young to be allowed to buy liquor.
President of the Barbados Road Safety Association Sharmane Roland-Bowen said while there were restrictions on 16-year-olds consuming alcohol in public, the fact that they were being allowed to purchase it was a recipe for disaster.
“We have some issues here as it relates to people 16 years old allowed to purchase alcohol. They cannot drink it on the premises but they can buy it . . . . Don’t tell me you can purchase but not consume on the property. Obviously you are not going to drink the alcohol there. You want to go out and party and drink with your friends.
“Why is it that persons in developed countries see the dangers of allowing persons to purchase and even drink alcohol at that young age, and they have it at 21? Why can’t we take it to 21 as well? Aren’t our young people lives valued the same?” Roland-Bowen asked in an interview with Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the official launch |of the Barbados Beverage Alcohol Alliance (BBAA) at the Mount Gay Visitors’ Centre on Spring Garden Wednesday evening.
Roland-Bowen said the situation was compounded by the fact that Barbadians were also allowed to drive at 16 without restrictions.
“First they give them a weapon of destruction, which is the vehicle to allow them to use it at age 16, and also allowing them, which is another weapon, to be able to purchase alcohol at the age of 16 without penalties. The only [restriction] they have is that they cannot drink it on the premises and that is not enough,” she complained.
The BBAA is an avenue for alcoholic beverage producers, marketers and distributors, as well as promoters, to encourage responsible consumption of the spirits.
The alliance has a code of conduct that speaks to a number of issues in the industry relating to advertising, marketing and promotion; drinking and driving and misuse of alcohol.
Roland-Bowen said she hoped the new alliance would be “another voice for the push of the breathalyzer”, adding that officials needed to “get their priorities straight”.
There have been seven road fatalities in Barbados so far this year. However, the laws do not provide for individuals to be tested for alcohol consumption, making it impossible to confirm if any of those deaths were alcohol-related.
Last year Barbados recorded 23 road fatalities, up from 14 in 2014.
And with the rainy season setting in and Crop Over festivities heating up, Roland-Bowen issued a stern warning to Barbadians to “think before you drink. Think about the outcomes and what could happen”.
Her call came moments after Minister of Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss told the launching ceremony that alcohol abuse was among the top five leading causes of death and a leading risk factor for chronic diseases in the Caribbean.
“Certainly in our case in Barbados when you look at the cost to the public coffers from chronic diseases you are talking about nearly 70 per cent of expenditure. So it is a significant amount,” Inniss said.