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Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health

Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health and the Faculty of Laws at the University of Groningen awarded Zonmw grant for research on alcohol regulation

14 May 2024

Prof. Brigit Toebes and Dr Michelle Bruijn have been awarded a grant from funding organization Zonmw, with the help of which they will fund the research project ‘Alcohol regulation: navigating between allowing and prohibiting’ for four years. The American prohibition has not worked, and the Dutch rather liberal approach is not necessarily a success either. So what is optimal?

Harmful alcohol consumption

Harmful alcohol consumption leads to (health) damage and costs for society that can largely be avoided. For example, alcohol consumption increases the risk of more than 200 physical and mental disorders and diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and addiction. In addition to health damage to the drinker himself, alcohol also causes damage to others, such as death and injury due to traffic and occupational accidents, absenteeism and violence. The cost of alcohol consumption to society in the Netherlands is 2.3 to 4.2 billion euros per year. This includes healthcare costs, absenteeism costs, costs for the police and the judiciary and government costs.

Finding balance between two extremes

Currently, knowledge about optimal alcohol regulation is limited in the Netherlands, Europe and worldwide. The research project 'Alcohol regulation: navigating between allowing and prohibiting' aims to find a balance to regulate alcohol on a legal spectrum between allowing (one extreme) and prohibiting (the other extreme). A regulatory optimum should ensure that the (health) harm and costs from alcohol consumption are minimized, that the commercially driven market is curbed, and that the emergence of criminal markets is avoided.

Cooperation and three overarching tasks

Toebes and Bruijn work on this project on behalf of the Faculty of Law at the University of Groningen. They are joining forces with colleagues from the Trimbos Institute and the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) at La Trobe University. The Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health will play a role in the public engagement of the project.

The project will start on 1 October 2025, and with the help of a PhD candidate the participating parties will jointly carry out three overarching tasks:

1.           Conduct a legal analysis of literature regarding the current legal framework of alcohol regulation, at the international, European and domestic (Dutch) level.

2.           Make an internal and external legal comparison of (inter)national forms of regulation of cannabis and tobacco for alcohol regulation in the Netherlands and Australia.

3.           Organize focus groups with national policy makers and use the findings as a basis for operationalizing a policy measure.


Zonmw is a partnership between ZorgOnderzoek Nederland (ZON) and the Medical Sciences Area Board (MW) of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). It programs and funds research and innovation in health, care and welfare. The Zonmw funding for ‘Alcohol regulation: navigating between allowing and prohibiting’ will be used, among other things, to appoint a PhD student for this project.

Last modified:14 May 2024 10.44 a.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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