Young people and alcohol

Alcohol is especially harmful to children and teenagers. The government runs awareness campaigns and passes laws to protect them. It is a criminal offence for anyone under 18 to have alcohol in their possession in public and selling alcohol to minors is illegal. The government runs campaigns to raise awareness among teenagers and parents about the risks of underage drinking.

The government protects growing children and teenagers from the risks of alcohol

Drinking alcohol carries extra risks for young people:

  • Drinking is harmful to developing bodies. Young people who drink are more vulnerable, for example to sexual violence.
  • Drinking alcohol from a young age can lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism later in life.
  • Children and teenagers are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning than adults.

Alcohol also plays a big part in aggressive behaviour, violence and traffic accidents.

The government has passed laws against underage drinking. Since 1 January 2014, it is a criminal offence for young people under 18 to have alcohol in their possession in public, such as on the street or in a shopping centre. The laws are intended to protect children and teenagers.

Selling alcohol to minors is illegal

It is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18. This is laid down in the Licensing and Catering Act.

Local authorities monitor businesses that sell alcohol for compliance with the legal age limits and with the conditions of their licence. If you suspect a business is selling alcohol to minors you can file a complaint with the local authority where the business is located.

Educating young people and parents about alcohol

The government runs campaigns to educate young people and parents about alcohol and the risks associated with drinking. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport launched the NIX18 campaign to show that it is normal for people under 18 not to drink and smoke.

Trimbos Institute, a centre of expertise on mental health and addiction, runs a school-based programme on health, alcohol and drugs. There are different teaching packs for primary schools, secondary schools and secondary vocational schools. The programme does more than provide pupils with information. It also calls for good school policy, an active role for parents and early detection of smoking and drinking.

Preventing alcohol abuse among teenagers who play sports

Compliance with the legal drinking age is often poor in canteens at sports clubs. The government wants to stop alcohol abuse among teenagers who play sports. Starting in 2015, paediatrician Nico van der Lely and the Dutch sports federation NOC*NSF will spend four years visiting sports clubs in the Netherlands to raise awareness of the harmful effects of excessive drinking by teenagers and suggest solutions.