The Brewers of Europe finalised an underage drinking toolkit during the first year of the Pledge, presenting the issue and good practices for tackling the various drivers of such behaviour. Due also to the particular sensitivities of this issue and communicating with underage youth, the toolkit stressed the importance of partnerships with those people who are best placed either to reach out to underage or to prevent sales to underage. For legal and moral reasons companies are also very careful not to gather data and research on underage drinking, since this is a section of the population that legally should not be able to purchase the product, although a particular challenge does also exist where alcoholic beverages are obtained by minors through adults who have legally purchased the products.
The reader will thus note that many of the activities involve the brewing sector supporting and funding the activities of specialists, of teachers, of parents, of NGOs, to discourage underage drinking. In particular research shows the importance of peers, and parents in particular, in influencing adolescents’ attitudes towards alcohol and the likelihood of a minor consuming beer or stronger alcoholic beverages.
A major plank of the brewers’ work in this area also involves the development and deployment of tools to support the prevention of sales to underage people below the legal purchasing age, which typically varies from 16 years to 18 years for beer and wine, depending on the country. This is typically an area where there is a law in place in all EU countries, but legislation can only be effective if it is implemented by sellers and servers and enforced by governments and the police.
Tackling underage drinking was one of the main priorities of the 2006 EU Strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol related harm, having been one of the principle triggers behind the decision to develop an EU Strategy. It is a major focus area of the WHO’s Global Strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and is also probably the main recurring theme in the numerous EU Member State national alcohol policies developed in the lead-up to and following the adoption of the EU Strategy. It is also a key part of the 2014-2016 Action Plan on Youth Drinking and on Heavy Episodic Drinking endorsed at EU level by the Committee on National Alcohol Policy and Action (CNAPA) in September 2014, so has proved to be a key focus area also for some Pledge activities over that same period.
Here below just some of the activities supported by companies and associations over the duration of the Beer Pledge.