1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Will Germany end 'supervised drinking' for under-16s?

July 11, 2024

Germany's health minister is considering an end to "supervised drinking" in bars for minors between the ages of 14 and 16.

A glass of sparkling wine on a table with a young person blurred in the background
Germany's approach to drinking at a young age is relaxed compared to most countriesImage: Annette Riedl/dpa/picture alliance

Germany Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is considering an end to the practice of "supervised drinking" for under-16s in bars when accompanied by a responsible adult.

The country's laws are among the most relaxed in the world, with 14- to 16-year-olds allowed to drink beer, wine, and wine-like beverages under the supervision of a parent or guardian. The premise is that it is better to teach a responsible approach to alcohol rather than banning it.

What are politicians saying?

Lauterbach, from the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), and other voices say the harm of such an approach outweighs any perceived benefit.

"From a health policy perspective, there can be no two opinions on this issue. So-called supervised drinking should be prohibited," Lauterbach told the German news network RND. "The presence of adults does not change the harmfulness of alcohol for children. That is why so-called supervised drinking should be prohibited."

Bavarian Health Minister Judith Gerlach, of the state's conservative Christian Social Union, has also called for an end to the current regulation.

"It makes no sense that young people aged 14 to 16 are allowed to consume alcohol in bars or restaurants if a person with parental responsibility accompanies them," said Gerlach.

Meanwhile, SPD Berlin State Senator Ina Czyborra has also called for a change for health reasons, adding that the minimum age threshold of 18 in Germany's partial legalization of cannabis and the law on alcohol proved contradictory. 

Germany's risky alcohol consumption

Does Germany have a drinking problem?

Germany had the fifth highest per capita alcohol consumption worldwide in a 2016 study, with the proportion of teenagers drinking alcohol in Germany among the highest in both Europe and the world.

Drinking in public places other than bars is generally legal and considered socially normal.

Christina Rummel, managing director of the German Center for Addiction Issues (DHS), has also called for a ban on supervised drinking.

"The earlier alcohol consumption begins, the greater the likelihood of addiction and the lower the likelihood of overcoming this addiction," Rummel warned.

Underage drinking in private is not regulated by a specific legal restriction in Germany. Here, the law is governed more by a parent's overall obligation to care for a child and protect them from physical and mental harm.

rc/sms (dpa, KNA)

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.