We have sort of a cultural rite of passage on your 19th birthday. You go out with your friends who ply you with booze until you’re in the bathroom worshipping at the porcelain altar. In Iceland, where the population of the entire country isn’t that much bigger than the Saskatoon CMA, there used to be a cultural rite of passage on your 13th birthday doing the same thing. In the late 20th century the teen drinking rate in Iceland was around 42%, the highest rate in Europe. Today, they say the percentage is around 5%. A non-profit institute at Reykjavik University regularly surveys teens as a key element of a program called Planet Youth that was started in 1999 due to what was seen as a crisis in teen drinking. Another key element involves parents spending much more time with their kids, which apparently wasn’t an easy sell in Iceland where they say work is favoured over play. The country has a Child Protection Act that sets curfews for children during the school year, 8pm for those under 12 and 10pm for ages 13-16. Parents are encouraged to monitor who their kids friends are, meet the parents of those friends, and keep tabs on where they hang out. The success of the program has attracted attention from other countries including parts of Canada. Officials in an Ontario county are looking at Planet Youth to help curb teen drinking and next month Planet Youth experts are visiting Manitoba. BTW, the Director of the Centre at the Icelandic university that does the research questions Canada’s move to legalize cannabis, suggesting we are “normalising” the drug for kids even though they aren’t legally allowed to participate.
That’s Coffeetalk. I’m Vic Dubois.