Under-age drinkers to be fined in future

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The Dutch government plans to fine teenagers in found in possession of alcohol in public in future. Health Minister Edith Schippers says she is concerned about alcohol abuse among young people.

In a parliamentary debate on Wednesday evening, the Christian Democrats and Labour Party backed the cabinet proposal to fine drinkers under the age of 16, which is the legal age for drinking beer and wine in the Netherlands.

However, the two parties think children should only be fined for drinking in bars. They say it is too difficult for publicans to make sure under-age children are not served alcohol, so it is the responsibility of the young people themselves.

Children buying alcohol in shops would not be fined inside the shop as in this case it is the responsibility of shopkeepers to ask young customers to prove their age. However, once they are caught with drink off the premises they could face a fine.   The conservative VVD supports the health minister's plans, but is concerned the policy may be difficult to enforce. The Freedom Party opposes the new plans. MP Fleur Agema says no new laws should be introduced while the existing ones are not enforced properly.

The proposal hands responsibility for enforcing measures against under-age drinking to local councils. Minister Schippers thinks they are in the best position to take action. Almost all parties agree, but they are concerned young people may just travel to areas where under-age drinking is tolerated.

A proposal by the Christian Union to raise the legal age for possession and consumption of alcohol from 16 to 18 is not supported in parliament.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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