The Anti-Drug Authority is preparing to launch a far-reaching program aimed at tackling the sharp rise in alcohol abuse among children and teens, its director, Yair Geller, announced Tuesday.
Speaking to the Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child, Geller said the program would pull together all the government offices currently involved in dealing with the problem, including the Public Security Ministry, which oversees the police, and the Education, Health and Welfare and Social Services ministries.
"It will be multi-faceted," he said, explaining that an awareness campaign aimed at alerting teens to the dangers of alcohol abuse would be set in motion in the coming days.
"Along with a television and internet campaign, it will also include awareness [programs] in schools countrywide," continued Geller.
However, a spokesman for the Anti-Drug Authority told The Jerusalem Post following the meeting that the program has yet to be presented to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and that its final budget still has not been approved.
Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of the National Council for the Child (NCC), told the Post that such a program had been far too long in coming, noting that the NCC had recommended such an initiative more than two years ago.
"The question is whether this program will actually receive a proper budget or whether each ministry will be made to find the resources from within their existing budgets," he said. "This kind of program will only work if it receives separate funding."
In addition to an awareness campaign, Committee on the Rights of the Child chairman MK Danny Danon said his forum would attempt to push through legislation that would support such programs and would also beef up restrictions on selling alcohol to teens.
At Tuesday's meeting, Danon suggested issuing identity cards to teens to stop them from purchasing liquor while under age, and increasing the tax on alcohol to make it more costly for them to buy it.
While Kadman welcomed such legislation, he asked whether it would also include empowering the police to enforce such measures.
"At the moment there is no prevention; even if the police catch a shop owner selling alcohol to a minor it takes so long to prosecute that nothing is really achieved," he said. "If a fine of thousands of shekels could be issued immediately to the shop owner then there is no doubt they would think twice about selling a bottle of alcohol for a few shekels' profit," he said.
Kadman also said that tackling teenage alcohol abuse required treating the problem at its core, by increasing alternative entertainment programs for immigrant children and disaffected youths.