Increased minimum legal age for the sale of alcohol in the Netherlands as of 2014: The effect on alcohol sellers' compliance after one and two years

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: As of January 2014, the Dutch minimum legal age for the sale and purchase of all alcoholic beverages has increased from 16 to 18 years of age. The effectiveness of a minimum legal age policy in controlling the availability of alcohol for adolescents depends on the extent to which this minimum legal age is complied with in the field. The main aim of the current study is to investigate, for a country with a West-European drinking culture, whether raising the minimum legal age for the sale of alcohol has influenced compliance rates among Dutch alcohol vendors.

Methods: A total of 1770 alcohol purchase attempts by 15-year-old mystery shoppers were conducted in three independent Dutch representative samples of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets in 2013 (TO), 2014 (T1), and 2016 (T2). The effect of the policy change was estimated controlling for gender and age of the vendor.

Results: Mean alcohol sellers' compliance rates significantly increased for 15-year-olds from 46.5% before to 55.7% one year and to 73.9% two years after the policy change. Two years after the policy change, alcohol vendors were up to 3 times more likely to comply with the alcohol age limit policy.

Conclusion: After the policy change, mean alcohol compliance rates significantly increased when 15-year olds attempted to purchase alcohol, an effect which seems to increase over time. Nevertheless, a rise in the compliance rate was already present in the years preceding the introduction of the new minimum legal age. This perhaps signifies a process in which a lowering in the general acceptability of juvenile drinking already started before the increased minimum legal age was introduced and alcohol vendors might have been anticipating this formal legal change. (C) 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Minimum legal drinking age
  • Compliance of alcohol sellers
  • Mystery shopping
  • Underage alcohol sales

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