Advocacy groups are calling for the legal drinking age in Italy to be raised from 16 to 18 after a new report was released detailing alcohol abuse among Italian teens.
Istat (Italy's statistical research institute) published their annual report on alcohol consumption this week, announcing that 8.6 million Italians engage in dangerous drinking habits. The habits include binge drinking, consuming more than the recommended amount on a daily basis, and drinking before they should (age 11).
The most worrying group of dangerous drinkers are pre-adolescents, with the biggest jump in risky consumption observed in girls aged 11 to 15.
Emanuele Scafato, head of the National Alcohol Observatory, said "Among 11 to 15-year-old girls we see an average number of consumers markedly higher than the overall Italian female average, three times more than adult women".
The Istat report as revealed that more Italians are drinking away from the dinner table, starting earlier in the evening and no longer waiting until the weekend.
Experts suggest that the rise in binge drinking could have to do with the alcoholic beverages being marketed directly to teens and the disappearance of the social stigma against being drunk in public.
A previous study by Eurispes found that, on average, Italian children start drinking at 12 years old- two and a half years earlier than the overall European average.
The rash of studies and alarming findings is prompting consumer groups to call for a stricter government controls such as raising the legal drinking age to 18, in order to reduce risk for future alcoholism.