Minors are not allowed to purchase alcohol or cigarettes under Belgian law. Some 25 health inspectors are being sent to festivals, youth parties etc. to check whether the rules are being followed, but they have a problem, as they fail to stay unnoticed.
"They stick out like zebras in a string of horses", says the Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block. Staff working at the bar are soon aware of their presence and abide by the law. Youngsters are not being served any beer or other alcoholic drinks. The checks are not working properly. "It's like an adult picking up his son or daughter at a party. The atmosphere dampens only to resume when the adult has left again", says De Block.
Organisers risk fines between 300 and 6,000 euros when they get caught serving alcohol (like beer) to youths under 16 or (stronger) spirits to those aged under 18. The federal health department now has the strong impression that the rules are being flouted, but can't do much as the checks are not effective.
Some 10 per cent of the youngsters are being caught red-handed by federal inspectors, while it can be heard that alcohol consumption among youngsters is 'very frequent' in fact. One solution would be to deploy teenage inspectors, but this is not possible under Belgian legislation. Another would be to have the inspectors restyled. They should dress up as youngsters and follow the advice of fashion experts like the Fleming Yanis Kazaltzis. However, if they look too dressed up, they will look even more suspicious, it can be heard at the health department.