This issue contains 4 sections.
Harmful effects on health, aggression in pubs and clubs, and traffic accidents as a result of drunken driving. Those are the main problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption in the Netherlands. The government wants to tackle alcohol abuse both among young people and adults.
There is a clear link in the Netherlands between truancy and excessive drinking. Alcohol also plays a major role in aggression and violence, and in road traffic accidents. A quarter of the victims of accidents in the Netherlands caused by drunken driving are young men between the ages of 18 and 24.
Young people and alcohol
Many young people in the Netherlands binge drink. At the age of 15, 60% of youngsters drink alcohol at least once a month. The government uses education and information campaigns to warn young people and their parents of the risks of alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages may not be sold to anyone under the age of 16. Young people may buy drink with a moderate alcohol content – beer, wine and spirits with less than 15% alcohol – once they reach 16. From the age of 18 they may also purchase strong liquor – distilled beverages with an alcohol content of 15% or more.
Anyone selling alcohol is obliged by law to request identification to verify the age of the purchaser. A vendor may not sell alcohol to anyone who is clearly planning to pass it on immediately to someone who is underage. Complaints against businesses that fail to comply with the rules on selling alcohol may be submitted to the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.
Policy and information on harmful alcohol consumption
The aim of Dutch government policy on harmful alcohol consumption among young people, in particular, is to:
- prevent children from drinking before they turn 16;
- reduce alcohol consumption among youngsters aged 16 and over;
- ensure that fewer people become physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol;
- reduce the harmful impact of excessive alcohol consumption in certain situations (in the family, at work, on the roads and in pubs and clubs).
Alcohol and the law
The law distinguishes between drinks with a moderate alcohol content (beer, wine and spirits with less than 15% alcohol) and strong liquor (distilled beverages containing 15% alcohol or more).
A bill to amend the Licensing and Catering Act has been before the House of Representatives since 2009. In February 2011 the Rutte government tightened up a number of measures designed to curb drinking among young people.
- As of 1 January 2013 people under the age of 16 will be fined if they have alcohol in their possession in a public place;
- Supermarkets and other retailers that are caught selling alcohol to underage young people three times in one year will be completely forbidden for a limited period to sell alcohol;
- Monitoring of compliance with the Licensing and Catering Act will be transferred from the new Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority to local authorities.
- Local authorities will have powers to link age restrictions to opening hours.
- Local authorities may impose restrictions on happy hours and special offers on alcohol.
- Local authorities are to regulate sales of alcohol in sport club canteens and other such venues by local ordinance.
- The licensing system is to be simplified. For example, the owner of a business need only notify the authorities when a new manager is taken on, rather than applying for a new licence.
Public drunkenness and disorderly conduct are being made offences under the Criminal Code (articles 453 and 426). A new provision of the Criminal Code also bans the serving of alcohol to anyone who is manifestly intoxicated. The Road Traffic Act sets a maximum blood alcohol content of 0.5 promille for drivers. The limit for new drivers is lower, at 0.2 promille. The Media Act 2008 bans alcohol advertising on television and radio between 06.00 and 21.00.