Can vendors' age limit control measures increase compliance with the alcohol age limit? An evaluation of measures implemented by three Dutch liquor store chains

Ruud T. J. Roodbeen*, Karen Schelleman-Offermans, Paul H. H. M. Lemmens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Dutch liquor store (off license) chains have voluntarily developed and implemented age limit control measures to increase compliance with the Licensing and Catering Act (LCA), aimed at prohibiting vendors from selling alcohol to minors (<18 years old). This study investigates differences between three liquor store chains in their style of self-regulation and how that affects compliance with the LCA in four domains (capturing processes in age verification, instructing staff, monitoring performance/providing feedback and imposing consequences).

Methods: A mixed-method design was used. In depth-interviews (n = 3) were conducted with chains' head office managers, gaining insight into control measures. Survey (n = 372) research was conducted to measure liquor store owners' perceptions of implementation. Mystery shop (n = 387) research was conducted to measure compliance of store owners with the LCA. Survey and mystery shopping data was linked (n = 179) for the indicated perceived risk of inspection.

Results: The interviews indicated that control measures differ across chains in comprehensiveness and degree of implementation, survey results showed corresponding differences across the chains. Linked results showed that liquor store owners who perceive a very high risk of inspection, showed higher ID requesting rates (chain 2 and 3: 93% and 99%) and compliance rates (chain 2 and 3: 77% and 86%), respectively. This effect may be amplified by a set of measures (e.g., by implementing age verification systems, increasing training, monitoring performances and/or imposing consequences) and could result in higher ID request rates (chain 1: 54% versus chain 2 and 3: both 95%) and compliance rates (chain 1: 35% versus chain 2 and 3: both 80%).

Conclusion: A comprehensive and systematic implementation of specific combinations of control measures in all four domains resulted in high compliance rates up to 80%. Nevertheless, the expectation is that this effect can only be attained when complemented by external government enforcement efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Alcohol availability
  • Alcohol sources
  • Liquor store chains
  • Underage alcohol sales
  • Legal age limit
  • Compliance
  • Control measures
  • Self-regulation
  • Enforcement
  • Prevention
  • Mystery shopping


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