Some 3,000 self-administered breathalyser tests will be distributed to band clubs across the island in a bid to reduce excessive drinking at village feasts, newly-appointed Social Policy Minister Michael Falzon said today.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Falzon said that the Foundation for Social Welfare Services wanted to curb excessive drinking at feasts, which while done in good spirits, could have disastrous consequences.

“There may be the urge to let loose, which after exams or with the pressure of today’s busy lifestyle could be a strong urge, but the law must be respected, especially when drink-driving is concerned,” he said.

Dr Falzon said statistics on alcohol use spoke for themselves and this was particularly worrying in youths.

Earlier this year this newspaper reported how seven of every 10 people treated for alcohol consumption had needed medical help following a heavy binge session and not because of a chronic drinking problem.

Dr Falzon, himself the president of a band club, said he had practically grown up in his local każin and knew first-hand how excessive drinking could cast a dark shadow on the festa experience.

“Feasts are a part of our identity, and we need to protect them. We also need to protect those who frequent them,” he said.

The disposable breathalyser tests are activated by pressing both ends of the small tube towards the centre. Users are then instructed to take a deep breath and exhale into the side of the tube marked with red arrows twice for 10 seconds.

After two to four minutes, the small crystals in the tube change colour to a shade of pink. The higher the alcohol level, the darker the colour of the crystals.

In Malta the legal alcohol limit for driving is set at 0.5g – the EU average – following a reform last year. It was previously 0.8g, among the highest in Europe.

A 2010 Eurobarometer study found that 99 per cent of Maltese drivers had no idea what the limit was. The study also found that 17 per cent of local motorists drank every day.

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