Politicians split over using undercover teens to buy alcohol

Should undercover teenage shoppers be allowed to expose the illegal sale of alcohol to underage consumers? Germany’s state interior ministers remained divided on the issue at an annual conference in Bremerhaven on Friday.

Politicians split over using undercover teens to buy alcohol

Interior ministers from Germany’s 16 states were unable to agree on the use of teens to fight the growing problem of teenage drunkenness at the meeting in the northern port city.

Berlin Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting said he had doubts about the concept, which is so far used in the states of Bremen and Lower Saxony.

“I’m very sceptical. We’ve never had secret teenage shoppers in Berlin. And it will remain that way,” Körting told daily Der Tagesspiegel. “That just turns kids into spies. And I don’t think you can reconcile that with human dignity,” Körting said.

Youth and child rights groups in Germany have warned against using underage persons as undercover shoppers for alcohol purchases.

“We should be teaching teenagers to be open and not surreptitious,” Heinz Hilgers, president of the German Child Protection Association, told the paper.

But the interior ministers of Bremen and Lower Saxony said the scheme had led to “excellent results” in their states. Bremen Interior Minister Ulrich Mäurer said the use of teenage mystery shoppers had led to 80 percent of underage persons being sold alcohol in the first trial. “That is a problem and we have to do something about it,” Mäurer said.

The legal drinking age in Germany for beer and wine is 16, for spirits the age is 18. Teenage drunkenness is a growing problem in the country, fuelled by so-called flat-rate, all-you-can-drink parties, that are catching on with German youth.

Earlier this year, a new report showed that more than 23,000 children in Germany were taken to hospital unconscious or semi-conscious last year because of boozing – more than ever before. The figure represents an increase of 143 percent since 2000.

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