“If it's up to politics, we'll keep drinking”

21 March 2022

Today Follow the Money published the first of three articles about Dutch alcohol prevention policy, or rather the way in which the alcohol sector opposes effective alcohol policy and politicians want to increase the availability of alcohol. Journalist Petra Wijnsema investigated how the game was played at the Alcohol Table of the National Prevention Agreement.

This first article discusses the way in which the indexation of excise duties and the ban on blurring disappeared from the National Prevention Agreement (and blurring later was re-included in the Coalition Agreement 2021-2025).

In 2018 more than 70 representatives of organizations signed the National Prevention Agreement. This document had been set up by the Dutch government to form the basis to create a healthy Dutch generation around 2040. The agreement focuses on three lifestyle themes with seperate "tabels": alcohol, tobacco and overweight. Partners included the alcohol sector, retailers, local and national government, NGO's, public health professionals, schools, sports clubs, et cetera.

The draft version of the National Prevention Agreement refers to indexation of the excise duty on alcohol. The word excise duty no longer appears in the final text. The alcohol sector is strongly opposed to an increase in excise duties. The alcohol sector tries to clamp down on policymakers and threatens not to feel 'bound' to the Prevention Agreement if additional measures, such as an increase in excise duties, are taken outside the agreement. At the end of the negotiations, the Foundation for Responsible Alcohol Consumption (the partnership of the alcohol industry) even made a threat: if there is an increase in excise duty during the duration of the National Prevention Agreement until 2040, the alcohol sector's support for the National Prevention Agreement will automatically expire. Policymakers were therefore caught between a National Prevention Agreement with few effective measures and the option to intervene through legislation.

Blurring, or permitting mixing formulas, such as catering activities in shops, supermarkets, hairdressers, book shops, massage parlors, bicycle repairers, launderettes, heel bars, et cetera, was frequently discussed at the Alcohol Table. The differences were great, but in the end all participants spoke out in favour of a ban on blurring with alcohol, albeit in a footnote. However, that footnote disappeared from the National Prevention Agreement two days before it was signed, under pressure of the coalition parties. Recently the same parties have indicated in the Coalition Agreement 2021-2025 that they want to allow blurring in shopping areas and thus want to turn on the alcohol tap further, which goes against the agreements in the National Prevention Agreement.

State Secretary Van Ooijen is now in charge. Something has to be done to achieve the goals of the National Prevention Agreement.

See alco: Article on website Movendi.


Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043