An unprecedented large number of organizations and the public is now calling on the parliamentary parties to introduce a 18-year age limit for the sale of alcohol. Controversially, also the alcohol industry is allowed to be involved.

The Danish Medical Association together with 22 other organizations has called on the government of Denmark to raise the age limit for alcohol sale to 18 years. It is an unprecedented number of civil society organizations and broad coalition of organizations now calling on the parliamentary parties to introduce a uniform 18-year age limit for the sale of alcohol. Controversially, also the alcohol industry is allowed to be involved.

Denmark has one of the lowest alcohol age limits in Europe and the world, allowing kids to buy beer and wine from the age of 16 years.

In part due to this low age limit, children and youth in the country are not protected from early initiation and onset of alcohol use. Many Danish young people consume alcohol, and alcohol consumption increases markedly during transitions from primary school to upper secondary education.

As Movendi International reported in 2019, not only, four out of five 15-year-olds have already tried consuming alcohol, but one out of ten 11-year-olds and one out of three 13-year-olds have tried it as well.

As recently as August 2020, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority revealed the latest results of the ESPAD study for Denmark showing that the trend is going the wrong direction: Danish youth is increasing their alcohol consumption, contrary to other countries in Europe. The number of young people who end up in hospital due alcohol poisoning has been steadily increasing over the past five years in Denmark.

Peter Konow, director of Alcohol & Society and one of the driving forces behind the initiative, says, as per NORDAN:

We are many who are confronted with both the physical and mental injuries that stem from young people’s harmful alcohol culture. In this initiative, we are gathered in an unprecedented broad circle of stakeholders who believe that the time is ripe to take joint responsibility for the problem. 

Alcohol takes up far too much space in young people’s relationships with each other, because drunkenness is to a large extent the ticket to many communities. It is seriously gaining momentum in the transition to upper secondary education, where young people end up in an impossible dilemma between getting drunk or standing outside the community. As a society, we cannot continue to accept that it is a choice that the minors themselves must make.“

Peter Konow, Director, Alcohol & Society

As per the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe Fact Sheet for Denmark, per capita alcohol consumption among youth between 15 to 19 years is at 3.2 liters for girls and 9.5 liters for boys.

© WHO Europe Alcohol Country Factsheets 2019

In terms of binge alcohol use, over half the male youth from 15 to 24 years engage in this especially harmful behavior. Data also shows that binge alcohol use further increases with the 20 – 24 year old youth across genders.

Alcohol attributable fractions in mortality are significant with 15.9% of Danish youth between 15 to 19 years and 23.3% of youth between 20 to 24 years dying due to alcohol related reasons.

The WHO further reports that,

  • 82% of all Danish 15-year-olds have ever tried alcohol, compared to 59% on average in Europe.
  • 42% of Denmark’s 15-year-olds have been intoxicated at least twice. The average for the whole of Europe is 20%.

Alcohol is specifically dangerous for the developing adolescent brain. Alcohol can cause academic problems and affect long-term achievement in life for adolescents.

Alcohol impedes the development of the brain and it can cause learning problems,” said Camilla Rathcke, chairperson of the Danish Medical Association, as per Nord News.

Preventing the start of alcohol and the alcohol culture early is really necessary in order to grow up and have the best conditions for a healthy and long life,” added Ms. Rathcke.

Camilla Rathcke, chairperson, the Danish Medical Association

Growing support to increase legal age limit to 18 years

That is why an unusually broad circle of organizations is now calling for action. The organizations include interest groups, health and pediatric organizations, regions and municipalities, as well as – controversially – representatives of the alcohol industry (“Vin og Spiritus Organisationen i Danmark”) and the restaurant industry (“HORESTA”). They have gathered in the initiative “Drukfri Ungdom” (Pressure Free Youth), which seeks to start a public conversation and inspire parliamentary action to introduce a uniform 18-year age limit for the sale of alcohol, as is customary in most other countries. It also appeals to parents to get more involves in the lives of their children regarding decisions on alcohol use.

In addition to the civil society coalition, there is also growing public support for raising the legal age to 18 years for alcohol purchasing.

According to a survey conducted by the research institute Voxmeter on behalf of Blue Cross Denmark, 62.5% of those surveyed say that the age limit for the sale of all types of alcohol should be raised to 18 years. This accounts for 6 out of 10 Danes who think alcohol should not be allowed for those below 18 years of age.

Danes Support Higher Age Limit
According to a survey, 62.5% of those surveyed supported raising the age limit for alcohol purchasing to be 18 years.

It is important that the Danish government listens to the Danes, and the many, many organizations that want to see an 18-year age limit for buying alcohol in stores,” said Bjarne Stenger Edholm, who leads the Alcohol Line, which is run by Alkohol & Society, as per Accent.

Bjarne Stenger Edholm, leader of Alcohol Line, by Alkohol & Society


Nord News: “The Danish Medical Association: Alcohol can affect young people’s professionalism

Accent: “6 out of 10 Danes want to raise the age limit for alcohol