Underage individuals should not drink. Young people are at particular risk of harm from excessive alcohol consumption because it interferes with their growth, nutritional status and personality development.

It is recognised that consuming alcoholic beverages increases the probability of an accident while participating in sporting and recreational activities and it diminishes physical, sexual and communicative capacity. The (negative) effects of alcohol misuse are, however, much more pronounced in young people. This is both due to their physical immaturity and psychological factors.


Since adolescents are still in a phase of physical development, they typically have not fully developed the same capacity to tolerate alcohol as adults. It has also been observed that alcohol dependence is more likely to develop, if alcohol use commences prior to adulthood. Researchers found that the earlier the drinking started, the higher the risk of alcohol dependence later in life.


Furthermore, alcohol affects the brain development in young people, thus, drinking, particularly binge-drinking, at any time before the brain development is complete, may adversely affect later brain function.


Mental immaturity

In addition, young people are greater risk takers than adults but still have poorly developed decision-making skills, factors that are reflected in the high levels of injuries during adolescence; the young brain is sensitive to injury from alcohol and is less able to listen to body signs telling them to stop drinking.

The high expectations many young people attribute to alcohol as a social lubricant in removing inhibitions can sometimes expose them to major risks.

Furthermore, the constant process of change and transformation experienced by young people affecting both personality and physiology can rapidly facilitate a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol.


Influence of family

Recent research from the UK suggests that teenagers who taste moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages at home with their families are less likely to binge drink.

Parental supervision of alcohol consumption in a family environment may also provide a tool for establishing child-parent dialogues on alcohol. This method requires supporting parents to ensure they promote only moderate drinking behaviours in their children, and only when appropriate. Parental figures must set an example in establishing and promoting drinking habits that are socially acceptable.


Minimum purchasing age

Support for respecting underage sales ban enforcement

The laws of each EU member state reflect regional and cultural differences. Legal restrictions on the age at which individuals may purchase alcohol vary from country to country and typically range from 16 to 21 years of age. Because all EU countries legally restrict sales to youth, the wine sector supports that consumers of all ages should be well informed about the minimum age established for purchasing and drinking alcohol.

Legal restrictions covering the minimum purchasing age can, however, only be effective, if the respective laws are enforced. Enforcement is very important because studies indicate that underage individuals can still purchase alcoholic beverages regardless of legal limitations. This is probably the result of insufficient or inconsistent enforcement, particularly when there is little concern about law enforcement in the community. The European wine sector will contribute to raising awareness and encouraging societal respect for the laws governing the minimum alcohol purchasing age.

« Youth protection » Age limits

Austria

wine: 16

Belgium

16 for wine

Denmark

Off-premise: 16 for wine
On-premise: 18

Finland

Off-premise: 18 for wine
On-premise: 18

France

18

Germany

16 for wine

Ireland

18

Italy

Off-premise: 18
On-premise: 18

Luxembourg

16

Netherlands

18

Norway

18 for wine

Portugal

18 for all alcoholic beverages

Spain

18

Sweden

Off-premise: 20; supermarkets for beverages containing between 2.25 and 3.5% vol: 18
On-premise: 18

Switzerland

16 for wine

United Kingdom 18 for sales on-premise and off-premise
16 for wine on-premise, with a meal if accompanied by an adult who purchases the alcohol (does not apply in Northern Ireland)


Source
: Reference: Federal Office of Public Health FOPH (Switzerland) - http://www.bag.admin.ch/themen/drogen/00039/10172/12019/index.html?lang=en



FOR FULL DETAILS ON WINE, HEALTH & SOCIAL ASPECTS, VISIT
WWW.WINEINFORMATIONCOUNCIL.EU

YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR FAMILY DOCTOR FOR ANY DOUBT RELATING YOUR DRINKING PATTERNS AND HEALTH.
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