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Drinking of alcohol by young people

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Drinking of alcohol by young people

There is statistical evidence of changes in drinking patterns amongst adolescents which are of particular concern. In particular, there has been an increase in binge drinking and heavy drinking among minors. This recommendation aims to encourage the Member States and the players concerned to develop mechanisms designed to address the problems caused by alcohol abuse among young people.


Council Recommendation 2001/458/EC of 5 June 2001 on the drinking of alcohol by young people, in particular children and adolescents [Official Journal L 161 of 16.06.2001].


General approach

The purpose of the recommendation is to sensitise all levels of society to the dangers of alcohol abuse among young people, including manufacturers and retailers of alcoholic beverages, as well as parents. It also addresses the different aspects of the problem, from irregular binge-drinking to alcohol dependency among young people.

Via this recommendation, the Council encourages a common approach to this problem within the Community.

Strategies of the Member States

The recommendation lays down the basic criteria for the Member States' strategies to address this problem. The main point is to sensitise all players and particularly young people to the problems linked with alcohol consumption and to develop health promotion tools. This approach focuses on the different areas concerned -- schools, sport centres, youth movements, etc.

According to the recommendation, the key features of these strategies should be:

  • promote research into all the different aspects of problems associated with alcohol consumption by young people with a view to identifying and evaluating measures to deal with them;
  • ensure that general health promotion policies targeted at all the groups concerned (children, adolescents, parents, teachers, etc.) should include the alcohol issue;
  • foster a multisectoral approach to educating young people about alcohol involving, as appropriate, the education, health and youth services, law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organisations, the media, etc.;
  • encourage the production of advisory materials for children, adolescents and parents;
  • increase young people's involvement in youth health-related policies and actions;
  • develop specific initiatives addressed to young people on the dangers of drink-driving;
  • take action as a matter of priority against the illegal sale of alcohol to under-age consumers.

Actions concerning the industry

In cooperation with the producers and the retailers of alcoholic beverages and relevant non-governmental organisations, the Member States are encouraged to establish effective mechanisms in the fields of promotion, marketing and retailing:

  • to ensure that producers do not produce alcoholic beverages specifically targeted at children and adolescents;
  • to ensure that alcoholic beverages are not designed or promoted to appeal to children and adolescents. Particular attention should be paid to the use of styles (motifs, colours, etc.) associated with "youth culture" , the images used, the promotion of ideas associated with alcohol consumption (implications of social success, sexual or athletic prowess, featuring of children in drink promotion campaigns and sponsoring of alcoholic drinks (sponsoring of sporting or musical events, sport merchandising, etc.);
  • to ensure the possibility of examining and recalling products which do not respect the principles mentioned above;
  • to develop, as appropriate, specific training for servers and sales persons;
  • allow manufacturers, promoters, etc. to get pre-launch advice;

The Commission's role

In cooperation with the Member Sates, the Commission is invited to:

  • support the Member States in their efforts to implement this recommendation notably by providing relevant data and by facilitating the exchange of information and good practices;
  • promote further research at Community level on the attitudes and motivations of young people in regard of alcohol consumption and monitoring of ongoing developments;
  • make full use of all Community policies, particularly of the programme of action in the field of public health, in order to address the matters covered in this recommendation.


Studies carried out in recent years in some Member States indicate disquieting changes in the drinking patterns of children and adolescents. The studies show an increase in binge drinking and heavy drinking among minors, a lowering of the age of first contact with alcohol and increasing consumption by young girls. This is a disturbing trend in view of the serious consequences of excessive alcohol consumption on the health of young people and on their social well-being.


Conclusions of the Council of 2 June 2004 on alcohol and young people [PDF ][not published in the Official Journal] In these conclusions the Council reiterates those of 5 June 2001 on a Community strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm and invites the Commission to put forward proposals to this effect.

Conclusions of the Council of 5 June 2001 on a Community strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm [Official Journal C 175 of 20.06.2001] In these conclusions, the Council calls for the development of a comprehensive Community strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Last updated: 29.08.2005