This article is written by Monesh Mehndiratta, a law student at Graphic Era Hill University, Dehradun. The article talks about drinking culture and its legality in Germany. It provides legal age for consumption of alcohol and laws related to it.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
What would you do if a bottle of alcohol or beer was made available to you at your doorstep, and that too, at a very cheap rate like water? Will you let your children consume it or first think about their age? Well, in Germany, consumption of alcohol is a very common and normal practice, unlike in other countries like India. People can buy alcohol anywhere at any time without any restrictions. The only requirement is the legal age to drink.
In Germany, alcohol is available at the same price as water and, in some places, even cheaper than that. In such a situation, there is more consumption of alcohol and beer. In order to prevent young children from consuming it and indulging in criminal activities, as they are more prone to such activities, the government has set a legal drinking age. After such an age, a child develops a sense of responsibility and maturity and can even differentiate between what is wrong and right. The article talks about this legal age and other laws and rules related to the consumption of alcohol in Germany.
Objective of defining a legal age for consumption of alcohol
The main objective of such German laws is to protect youth from severe alcohol consumption, which, if not done, may lead to a situation where these young people will have no control over their senses. These laws do not restrict them from drinking alcohol, but rather help them to have an appropriate approach towards its consumption.
Another aim is to let the youth apply their mind and rationale in thinking about what amount of alcohol is good for their health and society. Excessive alcohol leads to several problems like bad health, family issues, violence and aggressive behavior and disruption of peace and harmony in society. If there would be no law that regulates the age for drinking, children may start consuming it at a tender age, which will lead to various problems in the future. Thus, the laws are aimed at reducing such instances and making the youth realize that consumption of alcohol is not bad if done wisely.
When can a person legally drink alcohol in Germany
Whenever we talk about the legal age for alcohol consumption, there are 2 aspects related to it. These are:
- The legal age to purchase alcohol.
- The legal age for its consumption.
The law that regulates the consumption of alcohol by defining a legal age is known as Jugendschutzgesetz – JuSchG (Protection of Young Persons Act, 2002). It was adopted in 2002 by the German government with the aim of reducing the chances of excessive alcohol consumption, which leads to other crimes in the country. In Germany, if you are under the age of 18 years old, you will need to provide a passport, ID card, or driving license in order to prove that you are of legal age. In addition to this, you will also need to show proof of age when purchasing any alcohol, no matter how low the alcohol level is.
Section 1 of the Act considers people between the age group of 14-18 as adolescents and defines a custodial person as the person who is responsible for the care of children and minors. The Act provides no specific legal condition or restriction for the consumption of alcohol in private places, as it is the duty of parents to ensure the health and safety of their children. But it also provides a framework to regulate consumption in public places like pubs, restaurants, clubs, etc.
Thus, the Act gives 3 categories for the purchase and consumption of alcohol in the country under Section 9. These are:
- No alcohol must be sold to children below the age of 14 years or adolescents nor can they consume it.
- Adolescents or people above the age of 16 years can consume alcohol in public places only if they are accompanied by their legal guardians or parents.
- The third category is for people over 18 years of age. They can easily consume alcohol anywhere anytime without any restrictions.
Penalty for violation of the Act
Over the years, different states have witnessed various offences related to alcohol and its consumption. One of them was the illegal supply of alcohol to people belonging to underage groups. To avoid and reduce this situation, the Act has specified punishment and fines in this regard. According to Section 28(1) of the Act, the following people are liable for civil penalties:
- Any person or vendor who sells an alcoholic drink to an underage person; or
- A person who sells it in a vending machine that contravenes Section 9(3); or
- A person trading in sugared beverages and alcohol in contravention of Section 9(4)
Apart from this, every state in the country has its own mechanism of levying fines and penalties to reduce the illegal supply of alcohol and other such activities that promote alcoholism in underage people.
Amendment to legal age for drinking in Germany
As reported, some people, along with other politicians in the country, demanded a rise in the legal age for the purchase and consumption of alcohol in the country. The German government believes that there are numerous reasons for proposing to raise the age of alcohol consumption from 16 years to 18 years. Children below 16 years are allowed to drink in the presence of their parents or custodial person, which is still not a good practice, even for the health of these youngsters. He also proposed having certain restrictions on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling advertisements, stating that this may affect young minds and hamper their growth towards development.
But according to the reports, the government has declined to make such an amendment based on statistics on alcohol consumption. According to the statistics and data of 2020, the consumption of alcohol has decreased in the country in the past few years, and this decline in consumption has continued even in 2020 when the world was facing the deadly COVID-19. The country saw another 5% decline in 2020.
The government believes that education and awareness of responsible consumption of alcohol are working and fulfilling the purpose of making the youth realize the importance of a correct approach towards alcohol. Because of such a decline, the government has decided not to increase the age of alcohol consumption in the country. It is believed that people have now become conscious about their health and consume alcohol wisely.
The law is necessary for those indulging in malpractices and illegal supply. Such suppliers are involved in black marketing and promoting the illegal consumption of alcohol. This problem needs to be addressed at the earliest so that such activities can be controlled and regulated in a timely manner. The need is to make laws and penalties more stringent and hefty for such suppliers and dealers, and even those who are buying alcohol illegally.
Comparison with other countries in the European Union
Like Germany, various other countries which are a part of the European Union have restricted minors and children of a tender age from consuming alcohol. They have set legal ages for the purchase and consumption of alcohol in their countries. Let us first discuss the legal age set for the purchase of alcohol in different countries of the European Union.
Legal age for purchasing alcohol
- There are 21 member countries of the European Union where children cannot buy alcohol. Some of these are Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Hungary etc.
- Some countries have set a minimum age for purchasing alcohol. Countries like Denmark, Germany, and Belgium have set a minimum age of 16 years for this purpose. People of 16 years can easily buy beverages containing 1.2% of distilled alcohol whereas people of 18 years are allowed to buy spirits containing more than 1.2% of distilled alcohol.
- On the other hand, Sweden has added one more category where people over 20 years old can buy beverages having 3.5% or more distilled alcohol.
- The legal age for purchasing alcohol in Cyprus and Malta has been restricted to 17 years and in Luxembourg to 16 years.
- Austria has given different mechanisms to determine the legality of age, which depends on different regions. The age can be 16 or 18 which also depends on the amount of alcohol a person is purchasing.
Legal age for consumption of alcohol
- In countries like Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, etc., the age for consumption is the same as the age for purchasing alcohol. There are 13 such countries.
- Like Germany, there are other countries where there is a restriction on age for the consumption of alcohol only in public places like restaurants, pubs, clubs etc. These are Portugal, Greece and the Netherlands.
- In Estonia, the minimum age for alcohol consumption is set at 18 years but there is no minimum age for purchasing it.
- In some parts of the United Kingdom, like Wales, Scotland, and England, children belonging to the age group of 16-18 years are served alcohol with their meals only in the presence of their parents while the legal age in Sweden is 18 years.
- However, in countries like Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania etc, there is no imposition of any legal age for the consumption of alcohol.
It is necessary to regulate the conduct of children until they attain maturity and clarity about what is wrong and what is right. This is one of the primary duties of parents. The other duty of parents is to make them sensible and responsible so that they can understand what is good and bad. Similarly, when we talk about the consumption of alcohol, it is necessary that it is done wisely. Alcohol has various remedial and other beneficial qualities, but if done in excess, it may also harm the body, and this is what young people have to realize.
As parents, it is their duty to educate them and make them aware of a good and rational approach towards alcohol and its consumption, but even the state can impose certain restrictions in order to avoid such young people from indulging in excessive alcohol consumption. This is the reason why some countries have set a minimum age for the consumption of alcohol. Germany in this regard gives 3 categories, which have been discussed above. But despite the restrictions on age, there has been illegal purchase and supply of alcohol and beer, especially to underage people. The government has to address this problem as soon as possible, and they must make the liability stricter. Currently, the only liability to which a person is exposed is a civil penalty. There must be some changes in the law as per the advancement of time and an increase in a particular crime in order to maintain harmony in society.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do the states have the right to set hours for the sale and purchase of alcohol in Germany?
Yes, the states in Germany can impose closing hours for shops, restaurants, and other establishments having a license to sell alcohol with the help of their state legislation.
What are the other subject matters of the Protection of Young Persons Act (Jugendschutzgesetz)?
Apart from the legal age for alcohol consumption, the Act provides provisions for various other matters, like:
What is the legal age for the consumption of alcohol in India?
The different states in India have different legal ages for the consumption of alcohol. This age ranges from 18 – 25 years. This is because alcohol is a subject of the State List under Entry 8 in the VII Schedule of the Constitution. There are some states that fall into the category of “dry states” and have completely banned the sale and purchase of alcohol, along with its consumption. These are:
- Gujarat – Bombay prohibition (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2009
- Bihar – Bihar Excise (Amendment) Act, 2016
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