Nieuws - 21 juni 2012

Is it sensible to raise the minimum age to 18 for buying alcohol?

Marlies Bos (the left-wing fluffy type) and Jillis Herweijer (the right-wing Hooray Henry type) rarely see eye to eye on matters of politics, the environment or student life

MARLIES: In most European countries, people can buy alcohol from the age of 18. Here in the Netherlands that idea is gaining support. And rightly so, in my view.
In recent years an increasing amount has been learned about the harmful effects of drinking alcohol at a young age. And research has shown that people who start drinking when they are young have an elevated risk of alcohol-related problems later in life. Good reason, then, to raise the age limit to 18. But this is by no means all that needs to change. Parents must be more consistent. And age checks, especially in supermarkets, must be improved. However, none of this diminishes the fact that it is a good idea to raise the age limit and one that, hopefully, will help reduce alcohol-related problems among young people. 
JILLIS RESPONDS: I'm glad you appreciate that the problem really lies with the parents and the enforcement of legislation. Why raise an age limit when the current one isn't being kept to? Alcohol is most damaging to children under the age of 16, so why introduce a new limit of 18? It's just political symbolism.
JILLIS: Time and again, we see that government is unable to enforce this type of legislation. And the age limit of 16 for alcohol is no exception. Time and again, young people manage to buy alcohol at a supermarket or elsewhere. Raising the minimum age to 18 shows great political naivety - a failing we see all too often. As if, so the thinking goes, it takes no more than this for the problem of teenage drinking to resolve itself.
The focus must be put on enforcing the current age limit. Together with giving good information, and encouraging parents to fulfil their parental role and ensure that their children drink little or nothing. I'll say it again, this means taking a different approach.
MARLIES RESPONDS: Of course, raising the age limit is only part of the solution and I'm not denying that more needs to be done. However, several studies have shown that it is indeed an effective tool. It gives a clear signal: it is not okay to drink when you are young.