Sale of Alcohol to Minors

Article published on Dec. 3, 2008
Article published on Dec. 3, 2008
« I am preparing a major measure: a total ban of sales of alcohol to minors » declared Ms Bachelot, the French Health Minister on July 12th in the Journal du Dimanche.

Following the publication of an alarming inquiry by the French Office for Drugs and Addictions (OFDT) according to which 84% of minors aged 15 already have taken alcohol, the Health Minister is about to prohibit totally the sale of alcohol to minors not only in nightclubs and bars but also in grocery stores and supermarkets. This measure is also coupled with the prohibition of the ‘open bar’ system, allowing them to unlimited drinks once the entrance fee has been paid for. So how do professionals react to these measures?

According to a waitress at a Parisian nightclub, these measures will have a clear impact over their clientele - mostly minors, in fact. Alcohol is a problem for these younger persons who usually want to get drunk fast by drinking strong alcohol. And while ‘a strict control is necessary’, she says, ID controls are still done at the entrance but not at the bar when they order a drink.

An ill-respected Law

Indeed, since 1971, it is prohibited to sell alcohol to minors under 16, and strong alcohol to minors under 18 according to the Evin Law. But, as Ms Bachelot points out, it is not “all that clear”. Morgan, 16, claims she has no problem in getting alcohol: she just goes to a supermarket. She also claims that she’s had alcohol in a bar with friends even younger than herself, with absolutely no ID control from the owner.

So, if a law enacted 15 years ago is not respected, how could these new measures be anymore respected?

What about in Europe?

There is no real harmony in the European Union. Policies vary from one country to the other: in Denmark, the sale of alcohol is prohibited to minors under 16, in Spain, to minors under 18 and in Finland, to minors under 20 (for drinks with over 22° of alcohol). Three other countries have no specific policies. Existing texts at the European level deal more with public awareness campaigns. The Council’s recommendation made on June 5th 2001 invites member countries to ‘enhance available information’ related to the worrying increase in alcohol consumption by young Europeans and to protect minors from advertisement for alcoholic drinks.

Since 2001, no concrete measure has been implemented at the European scale.

Kévin Guelton

Translation:Frédérique Destribats