Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke will present an "alcohol plan," in March, containing what are reportedly striking measures, to curb its consumption in Belgium.
All alcohol is banned under the age of 16 in Belgium. For spirits, the age threshold is a bit stricter at 18, but there are spirits that slip between the cracks – such as porto, sherry and Martini, for example – which 16-year-olds can currently still buy. While wine and beer will remain available from 16, Vandenbroucke wants to raise the age threshold for the abovementioned spirits to 18, Het Belang van Limburg reports.
One of the most drastic measures will be to ban alcohol from vending machines from 2024. Now, it is still possible to get a can of beer from the vending machine when you enter your identity card, but Vandenbroucke wants to get the general circulation of alcohol down.
Therefore, he is also proposing a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in gas stations between 22:00 and 07:00. He also wants to ban alcohol in hospitals, with the exception of the cafeteria.
Another large part of Vandenbroucke's plan focuses on advertising. The Federal Government is strongly restricting gambling advertising, and Vandenbroucke now wants to extend that philosophy to alcohol advertising by banning television ads in the five minutes before and after a broadcast that is aimed at an underage target audience.
Such a ban would also apply during the screening of a film in the cinema, as well as in newspapers and magazines aimed at young people. Even digital media, such as TikTok, would have to comply. When alcohol marketing is still allowed, the advertiser is obliged to add a “health message” to every message.
He also wants to create new quality labels for the hospitality industry, but that is a sensitive proposal within the sector. For dance cafés and dance halls, Vandenbroucke wants a 'Quality Nights' label, which means that those who do enough in prevention and risk reduction can get such a label.
"This way, we continue to work on a serene party climate at a national level," reads the last text that was discussed between the authorities last Friday. A similar system may be introduced in the hospitality industry. The idea is to give a quality label to restaurants that provide an extensive and high-quality range of non-alcoholic alternatives.
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From 2024, Vandenbroucke also wants labels to be placed on alcoholic beverages themselves: it must then contain information about the units of alcohol, in combination with scientific health warnings. Just like on a pack of cigarettes, a defensive message such as "Drinking alcohol causes liver disease" or "There is a direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers" will appear.
A number of other proposals are also discussed in Vandenbroucke's plan, but have yet to be translated into concrete measures, such as lowering the permitted blood alcohol level in traffic, for example.
Additionally, a new working group has been set up to examine the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol or similar measures that make alcohol less attractive, such as higher taxes. The working group must develop proposals on behalf of the federal government.