Proposed fines would send “clear signal” against underage drinking

New law would create tougher penalties for shops that do not enforce alcohol and tobacco laws. Businesses say mandatory IDs would work better

Retailers will face stiffer penalties for selling tobacco or hard alcohol to anyone under 18, according to a proposal currently before parliament. In addition to doubling fines, the measure would also outlaw tobacco advertising and require stores to prominently display notices that customers are required to show a photo ID before they can purchase cigarettes and beer.

“We know that it is unfortunately easy to buy tobacco and alcohol even if you are not of age,” Flemming Møller Mortensen (Socialdemokraterne) said. “The law is very clear, but the checks and sanctions have been weak points.”

Mortensen acknowledged that parents must play a major role in curbing teen substance abuse. He said the law was designed to help both parents as well as retailers by introducing stricter control.

Only two fines for violating the rules governing selling alcohol to minors were issued in all of 2011, according Danmarks Statistik.

For many teens, obtaining cigarettes or alcohol is as easy as finding a store with a clerk willing to look the other way. But the law, which has broad political support, would seek to change that by putting the onus back on the owner of the shop.

A first offense would cost a shop 5,000 kroner, the second 10,000 and the third 20,000.

“The new law is a clear signal that it is not okay for shops to sell alcohol and cigarettes to those not of legal age,” the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), told Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. “We expect that by doubling the amount of the fines, it will make the sellers very aware of the law.”

Krag also stressed that laws alone would not stop young people from drinking and smoking.

“We also need young people and their parents on board and we need to discuss with young people how they can limit teen drinking,” she said.

While it supports the effort, Dansk Erhverv, a business interest group, was disappointed that parliament had rejected its suggestion that young people be issued an ID card. Such cards do exist, but under current practice, young people have to contact their local council and pay 150 kroner for the card in order to obtain one.

"An ID card for anyone under 18 will make it easier to enforce the rules at checkouts, where clerks are already dealing with many different sets of rules and age limits,” Sofie Findling Andersen, a spokesperson for Dansk Erhverv, told  Kristeligt Dagblad.

If the law is passed, the new rules would take effect in September.