Govt. law to legalise 18 year olds to sell alcohol

The Government is proposing a law to enable 18-year-olds to “sell alcohol” as a form of employment.

Minister of Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, revealed this in a recent interview with the Samoa Observer and added that the revenue generated will become a source of income for their families.

Under the new Alcohol Control Bill 2019 – which was tabled at the recent Parliament session – 18-year-olds are allowed to sell alcohol, provided they are supervised by someone who is 21 years and older. 

“But they (18-year-olds) are not allowed to drink. There is no guarantee that these 18-year-olds will not drink, it’s the owner of the bar because if they find out they are drinking, and we will charge the owner for allowing them to drink while working,” he said. 

When he was asked if it was a good idea allowing 18-year-olds to be exposed to and selling liquor – given the increasing number of incidents relating to the abuse of alcohol – the Minister said it is a source of income for the teenager and their families. 

“Most of our kids are out school at the age of 18 years so where are they going to go? So we allow them as long as there’s someone supervising them, like the owner of the bar who has to be there or someone has to be inside the bar who is 21 years old or above. 

“So it is a job opportunity for them, otherwise we will have so many kids who don’t go to school, dropouts having no jobs to turn to,” he added. 

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One of the provisions of the new law, which Tialavea expects to be passed by June, also gives Police the green light to test for drugs on those who are intoxicated. 

“The combination of Vailima, Taula, and spirit drinking them altogether contributes to the violent acts. 

“If you are taking drugs, you will never tell the police it was the drugs, you will only say it is the vodka, Vailima, Taula, but it’s not that. Something is behind this new increasing crime rate.”

In his capacity as the Liquor Board chairman, Tialavea is also warning club and bar operators to obey the conditions of the law or face a penalty of $10,000 under the new law, and the possibility of losing their license. 

“If there’s a suspicion that the person is under 21 years old, check the IDs, it’s on the 2011 Liquor Act. It’s on the liquor license conditions. If you got proof of people entering clubs who are under 21 years old, give it to us,” he said.  

“The police are inspecting these clubs, some of my inspectors too but they hardly go out. Depending on the business owner, they have to take care of every person coming in. If there are complaints coming in to the committee then we will have to deal with them. 

“Same goes to the small shops, only sell alcohol to people who are 21 and above. If you go around the island, people are selling liquor and tobacco to people under 18 years old.” 

Tialavea is also warning people drinking on roadsides and in public places, including transports to refrain from doing so as they could be charged. 

Alcohol sales currently generate approximately $2 million in Government revenue on an annual basis, according to the Minister. 

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