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Hazardous alcohol levels in adolescents are underestimated by barkeepers and security personnel


Drunkenness among adolescents represents a significant problem and is associated with adverse consequences. A Licensing Act, which prohibits the dispensing of alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated individuals, was introduced in Germany to curb excessive drinking. The objective of the study was to explore whether it is possible for barkeepers and security personnel to correctly estimate the alcohol level (AL) of adolescents merely based on their outer appearance and self-report. In a commercial dance club, 89 adolescents reported their past and current alcohol consumption and estimated their own AL. Their breath alcohol level was measured with a breathalyzer. The sample was divided into “moderate drinkers” and “binge drinkers.” Barkeepers and security personnel spoke to and examined the adolescents in order to estimate the adolescents' AL. Professional staff underestimated the ALs of adolescents in 60.7 % of all cases. Estimates of the personnel showed greater deviations from the measured AL of the adolescents as compared to estimates of the adolescents themselves, especially in the group of binge drinkers (t = 2.764; p = 0.009). Conclusion: It seems that adolescents suffer less from observable effects of alcohol, such as sedation or impairment of motor function. Consequently, we do not recommend the application of the Licensing Act to adolescents, but suggest its replacement by other restrictions and prevention measures.

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  1. In Germany, legal age of consent is set at 14.


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The study was supported by research grants from the University of Bamberg. The authors are not in receipt of alcohol industry funding. The authors would like to thank Susanne Mertel for her support with the translation and revision of the manuscript and Maximilian Pfost for his help regarding the analysis of data.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Mara Wurdak.

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Wurdak, M., Dörfler, T., Mentz, J. et al. Hazardous alcohol levels in adolescents are underestimated by barkeepers and security personnel. Eur J Pediatr 171, 1787–1792 (2012).

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  • Adolescents
  • Alcohol use