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The Law of 2009 concerning the selling and serving of alcohol to youths: from state of the art to assessment (ALCOLAW)

Research project DR/71 (Research action DR)


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Description of the project

In Belgium, where the minimum age limit for the use of alcohol is 16, it is clear that the majority of less than 16 year olds already drank alcohol in their life (Melis et al., 2013). Indeed, a recent study related to alcohol use among adolescents in Europe (Steketee, Jonkam, Berten, & Vettenburg, 2013) showed, from a sample size of 33.566 students from 25 countries (from 11 to 18 years old, x age= 13,90), that overall lifetime prevalence rate for beer, wine and breezers was 60,1% and 34,2% for spirits. Similar data were found in Belgium by the CRIOC study (2010) including 2.519 youths (from 10 to 17 years olds) where 65% of them had already drunk alcohol and 28% drank at least one glass of alcohol every week.

One of the possible measures taken by a government to reduce availability is establishing a minimum legal drinking age which has been a proven effective national health policy measure (Achterberg, 2011). Therefore, the legislation in Belgium was adapted in 2009. However, a newly introduced alcohol policy relies on retailers’ willingness to refuse to sell alcohol to underage customers. Before they are willing to comply, their knowledge of the new legislation is key. Indeed, another study of CRIOC (2009) including 160 sellers and shops showed that underage youths, using the mystery shopping method, obtained alcohol in 8 out of 10 selling points. Finally, legal age restrictions without enforcement at different levels (federal, regional and local) are not sufficient (Gosselt et al., 2007; WHO, 2006) and so different levels (federal, regional and local) should pay attention to enforcement.

So far, the Belgian alcohol law from 2009 has not been evaluated. Therefore, the aim of this project is six fold, each objective being translated into a specific Work Package (WP):

- WP 1. A critical analysis of relevant indicators of the new law of 2009 on drinking age limits which influence the behaviour of young people. Views on enforcement.
- WP 2. Empirical evaluation of the impact of the 2009 alcohol law on alcohol availability and consumption.
- WP 3. Evaluate the knowledge of sellers and young people regarding the 2009 law.
- WP 4. Feasibility study on test purchasing research (“mystery shopping”)
- WP 5. A practice-based perspective on the 2009 legislation by prevention workers and health promoters
- WP6: General conclusions and policy recommendations


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