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The Danish government's prevention initiative lacks effective measures to address harmful drinking culture among youth

Ida Fabricius Bruun; Alcohol & Society.
Ida Fabricius Bruun

02.04.2024 - Although the government intends to reduce young people's risky alcohol consumption with a prevention initiative, we are concerned that it won't change the alcohol culture and consumption among youth, warns Ida Fabricius Bruun, Director of Alcohol & Society.

One might think that Denmark should have left behind a far too long tradition where it is the norm for children and youth under 18 years to get drunk on alcohol. Especially when the Health Authority directly recommends that children and youth under 18 years should not drink alcohol at all because it is harmful to health:

"Although Denmark has a long tradition of allowing industry and shops to sell alcohol to children, it's a mystery why the government still wants to allow sales to 16-year-olds, now that we know the negative consequences. Even in the population, there is a large majority for a drinking age limit of 18 years," says Ida Fabricius Bruun, Director, Alcohol & Society.

"We have long been concerned about young people's alcohol consumption, which is the highest in Europe. In recent years, consumption has even increased, and alcohol is consumed in a way where children and youth face far too many risks and consequences. This has been recently seen in a documentary on TV2 and in a series of studies," says Ida Fabricius Bruun.

Our hope for the government's negotiations was that they would seriously help children and parents with one clear structural framework, allowing for a youth with less focus on alcohol and drunkenness. After the proposal has been introduced, I have not become less concerned about young people's risky consumption."

The government points out that alcohol is harmful to health, and risky consumption by youth must be prevented. However, in the government's proposal, we cannot recognize any of the crucial measures, based on knowledge in the field, that could otherwise change young people's risky alcohol consumption.

The government wants to change the allowed sales to 16-year-olds so that young people can only buy alcohol with up to 6% alcohol content, arguing that it will reduce availability and intoxication drinking. However, there is no evidence that this will work. Alcohol is alcohol. Danish youth are distinguished by drinking a lot at once and more often getting drunk than other European youth. They will still do so if the government's proposal becomes law.

It is positive that it seems funds will be allocated for creating more local events and communities without alcohol. But we also know that it can be difficult to create a lasting culture change when the structural frameworks allowing sales to minors can still occur in stores. This can be seen in the experiences from youth education institutions, which have also wanted help, so young people don't skip school or youth parties and instead go to the supermarket and drink privately.

Although politics also involve compromises, we experience that greater consideration has been given to an industry that can still sell alcohol to 16-year-olds. And won't we likely see even more and new products that stay within a new possible alcohol percentage limit? But for public health and our future generations, we are still concerned. We see the consequences in the statistics; European record in binge drinking, peer pressure, health and physical damage, accidents, and at least one death each month.

"A bright spot in the government's proposal is that the Safety Authority receives increased funds to conduct controls in stores, and that they may use mystery shoppers. Alcohol & Society has for many years, through the use of mystery shopping, pointed out the high degree of violations of sales to minors. Therefore, we hope that the Safety Authority's increased control and powers mean that stores will comply with the law," says Ida Fabricius Bruun, Director, Alcohol & Society.

This news article was first published on the Alcohol & Society website on November 13, 2023.

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