Alcohol consumption is a widely discussed topic in the field of health issues in the world. Delaying the onset of drinking should be a key issue in alcohol prevention. Although age limits on the use of alcohol exist throughout Europe, alcohol use by youngsters of 15 and 16 years of age is common. Also 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.
Many factors may contribute to these high figures of underage alcohol consumption, but easy access to alcohol is generally assumed to play a significant role. Availability can be influenced by national policies that restrict supply and availability; such seems to be a proven effective policy. Therefore, the legislation in Belgium was adapted in 2009 and a minimum legal drinking age was established. However, this 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. Finally, legal age restrictions without enforcement at different levels (federal, regional and local) are not sufficient and so different levels should pay attention to enforcement. The effect of enforcement is considered to be twofold: it influences the direct availability of alcohol and it influences the societal norms, attitudes and beliefs in society.
So far, the Belgian alcohol law from 2009, has not been evaluated. In this session, we present the conclusions of the assessment of this 2009 alcohol law in which all the above factors were taken into account.