Manufacturers and distributors of alcoholic beverages have been challenged to offer more than just “lip service” in the fight against drunk driving.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, President of the Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) Sharmane Roland Bowen urged The West Indies Rum and Spirit Association (WIRSPA) and the recently-formed Barbados Alcohol Industry Association to join her call to set a minimum drinking age of 18 years.
Last Tuesday, the two associations announced the launch of a major initiative to encourage responsible drinking. Managing Director of Mount Gay Distilleries Limited Raphael Grisoni promised the re-labelling of products, which discourage drunk driving and pledged to provide messages to dissuade people drinking “under the legal age”.
Roland-Bowen, who, has continuously called for the establishment of changes to the country’s drinking laws commended WIRPSA for its efforts, but challenged stakeholders to take their efforts to the next level.
“They are telling people to drink responsibly, but they don’t even know that we don’t have a legal drinking age and this is what the association is going to ask for and we would like them to come and join us to help lobby Government to get this established,” said the road safety advocate.
The current Liquor License Act prohibits persons under the age of 18 from supplying or selling “intoxicating liquor”, and while it is illegal to sell or serve alcoholic beverages to persons under 16 years, it is not illegal for such persons to be given alcohol by an adult.
“It should be at least 18, because I think 21 would be more difficult. We would like them to push and lobby Government to see if we can get a minimum drinking age established here in Barbados and help us with the fight where we can prevent children 16 and under from purchasing alcohol.
“Saying ‘drink responsibly’ is just lip service, but we would like them to take action and go a step further because Government would be more inclined to listen if we had their involvement in the push for a minimum drinking age.
When asked why 18 had been specified by the BRSA, Roland-Bowen said: “Sixteen is way too young. Personally I would like to see it at age 21. The U.S has it at 21 and Canada has it at 19.
“In Barbados you can vote at 18, you can see a doctor at 18. So 18 is basically the beginning of your adult years and that may seem to be more reasonable than 21. Children’s brains are not developed until they reach about 25. So the closer we establish to the 25, the better it would be for them,” she said.
Officials from neither of the alcohol producing companies could be reached for comment.