Curbing the availability of alcohol may reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related damage. Five policy options to this aim were investigated. The first option assigns the right to sell drinks stronger than six percent alcohol by volume exclusively to licensed liquor stores. The second and third options restrict hours for on-premise and off-premise sales. Furthermore, prohibitions on serving alcohol in sports canteens (option four) and on online sale of alcohol (option five). These options would move the Netherlands towards the regulation of alcohol availability in a number of Scandinavian countries.

The exclusive sale of beverages stronger than six percent at liquor stores has the largest impact on alcohol consumption and on the gain in quality-adjusted life years. This measure also reduces revenues and jobs by the most. Restrictions on on-premise sales hours have the smallest impact, but there may be a comparably large impact on people who drink much and on alcohol-related damage.

For three out of five policy options, proponents outnumber opponents. Most opponents are moderate drinkers, who do not belong to the target group of the Dutch National Prevention Agreement. Support for a ban on serving alcohol in sports canteens is particularly limited.

Effective policy to curb alcohol availability requires a comprehensive approach and attention to enforcement. Current experience with blurring and observance of age limits indicates that enforcement poses challenges in the Netherlands.

The project
The National Prevention Agreement aims to reduce problematic alcohol use. The ambitions in this agreement relate to heavy or excessive drinking, regular binge drinking and alcohol consumption by pregnant women and youths. Alcohol availability is one of the levers to realize these ambitions. It was agreed in the pact to investigate this issue.

The project explores impacts on alcohol consumption and health, implementation issues, public support, economic effects and possible side effects for five policy options. In order to enable monitoring the impact of these policies, the report also contains a baseline measurement of the number of selling points. Alcohol is found to be considerably more widely available than figures for official selling points suggest.

The report is based on desk research, surveys of consumers and municipalities, data-analysis, interviews with Dutch stakeholders and foreign experts, a literature review and calculation of effects with an economic model. This research was conducted jointly with IVO Research Institute.