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Why age limits matter?

Recent reports that Luxembourg is planning to increase drinking age but only for spirits to 18-years old, raised some mixed feelings.

Some research indicates that we only become adults in our 30s, brain development is thought to reach its maturity around the age of 25.
Despite this some countries still include 16 as legal drinking age. That is nearly a decade before areas responsible for planning, prioritising and controlling impulses are fully developed.

Governments should take the effort to counter the use of alcohol by young people. World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum legal purchase age as one of the most effective policies for curbing the prevalence of underage drinking and limiting availability.

Most EU Member States have set the legal age limit at eighteen years old regardless of the type of the drink, as it is the alcohol in the drink that matters not the type of the drink.A minority of countries differentiate between spirits, wine and beer. Nevertheless, there seems to be a consensus among Member States, that the legal drinking age in the EU is 18 years old.
Recent reports that Luxembourg is planning to increase drinking age but only for spirits to 18-years old, raised some mixed feelings.

Age limits of 18 should be implemented for all alcoholic products regardless of the type of drink or how the drink is being sold (on or off-premises).

Even with the 18-year age limit, there is still a gap between the legal age and the age limit that is advised from a medical point of view. Although the legal age limits generally emanate from health policy goals, the current legal age limits are lower than the age until the brain develops and is extra vulnerable for damage from alcohol consumption.

Based on ESPAD data, the higher the minimum legal age for purchasing alcohol, the later the age when the first drink is consumed. The largest effects are obtained in the consumption of wine and alcopops for both males and females, which are exactly the categories that the Luxembourgish plans would treat more favourably.

A review of 132 studies published between 1960 and 2000 found strong evidence that changes in laws for minimum drinking ages can have substantial effects on drinking by young people and alcohol-related harm. These effects often lasted well after the young people reached the legal drinking age.

It is hoped that Luxembourg will follow the majority of European countries and introduce 18-years age limit for all alcoholic beverages.

With increasingly mobile and interconnected youth across the EU, it makes perfect sense to send a clear public health message that a legal drinking age for alcohol across Europe is 18.

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