6534 tests were carried out across Switzerland on behalf of the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) in 2019. The mystery shopping found that on average one in five (20. 3%) minors were able to purchase alcohol despite the legal age limit. This is a 10% drop since 2016. In Switzerland, the minimum age to purchase alcohol is 16 years for beer and wine and 18 years for liquor.
Bars, pubs and public events were found to be the worst violators of the youth protection law with about one in three (30%) minors accessing alcohol in these types of alcohol oulets. Restaurants/cafés and chain stores/large retailers came in second, with 20% of minors being able to purchase alcohol. Petrol station shops came third with 10% of minors accessing alcohol in this type of alcohol outlet.
In four out of the five cases ID checks were carried out. Boys were more likely to be asked for IDs than girls. When girls went to buy alcohol alone, without boys, they were allowed to buy more alcohol despite being under-age.
Alcohol harm among Swiss youth
According to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO Europe), among young people between 15 to 19 years of age who consume alcohol, 58.6% of boys and 20.5% of girls engage in binge alcohol use. For girls the average is higher than the WHO European regional average. Alcohol-related harm is a massive burden and pervasive in Switzerland, with one in five (20.5%) deaths among 15 to 19 year olds being attributed to alcohol.
Even though the compliance rate with the legal age limit for alcohol purchase has improved by 10% since 2016, there is still room for improvement. Addiction Switzerland has stated that sales staff being overwhelmed is one problem. Staff are often pressurized by large crowds and impatient customers. To help sales staff do a better job of checking IDs, Addiction Switzerland has suggested scanners that read identity cards or colored wristbands for minors.
Addiction Switzerland highlights that sales staff cannot be held solely responsible for illegal sales to minors and that company’s are also responsible.
The sales staff cannot be held solely responsible for illegal sales. The companies’ shared responsibility must also be enshrined in the Alcohol Act,” said Addiction Switzerland in a statement, as per Sucht Schweiz.Addiction Switzerland
There are many areas that need improvement in the Swiss alcohol policy system to help prevent and delay the initiation of youth into alcohol. For examples, liquor is better regulated than beer and wine. The beer and wine industries face very weak rules and regulations. Consequently, beer and wine are the most consumed types of alcohol in Switzerland accounting for 80.2% of all alcohol consumption in the country. With the low minimum age, these two types of alcohol are what young people access mostly. Hence there is a need for better alcohol policies across the board to reduce availability, affordability and limit marketing of all alcohol, including beer and wine.