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Local authorities giving teenagers free booze in bid to combat drinking

A local council has decided to offer teenagers free alcohol as a novel way of trying to stamp out anti-social drinking issues.

The Belgian town of Balen has invented the "Sobercoin" which, when issued, grants three complimentary alcoholic drinks to the recipient.

To get the coin, though, people arriving at parties, organised by the council in the town, must demonstrate that they are sober first by proving they are not exceeding the legal limit by being breathalysed, according to the BBC's news website.

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The scheme's aim is to try and tackle pre-drinking in Balen – the practice of loading up on cheap alcohol indoors before even heading outside for a night out.

Officials noticed that the pre-drinking habit was leading to issues in the town's bars and clubs with Sobercoin spokesman Jonas Willems pointing out that the initiative was launched to try and bring an end to fights, vandalism, vomiting and other misbehaviour.

On Sobercoin's purpose, he added: "It's just to get the conversation started that people can acknowledge that there is a problem and maybe we are the generation to try to change that."

The Sobercoins have been handed out at four events and Willems thinks they have had a positive impact, declaring: "Before, they had many troubles with fighting and disturbances involving drunk people and this year that has not been the case.

"It could be a coincidence, but I still believe its some effect of our Sobercoin."

Party organiser Marthe Cox, meanwhile, added: "Everyone has to be aware of the effects of alcohol because it's all nice and fun until someone's in hospital. So I do think because of Sobercoins they are more aware of the effects."

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Asked if they are happy to be given a Sobercoin, two recipients – one male and one female – agreed that the initiative was a "good principle".

Another young woman reasoned: "We think it's very important to get into the party sober and to meet everyone and not be too drunk tonight, because then the party's over, right?"

A young man added: "For me, it's a benefit, yeah," going on to explain: "It's free drinks, so I like it."

Not everyone is in favour of Sobercoins, though, with another young male arguing: "I think it's not the ideal way to fix this problem."


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