Belgian city rewards youngsters who come sober to parties


Authorities from a small town in Belgium called Balen, invented the “Sobercoin”, a way of rewarding those who arrive at parties sober, in the attempt to change the “pre-drinking” culture of its youth.

The Flemish city noticed that more and more young were people getting drunk, many were pre-drinking at home, before going to events, which often lead to over-drinking and misbehaviour. Research by the Flemish Expertise Centre for Alcohol and Illegal Drugs showed that around 80% of young people pre-drank. To encourage them to arrive sober at events, the municipality of Balen introduced “Sobercoin”, which is given after a breathalyser test ahead entering events or nightclubs.

The “Sobercoin” grants three free drinks, courtesy of the local municipality to those who are sober. It has already been handed out this year at a couple of events and according to its spokesman Jonas Willems, it had a positive impact. “Before, they had many troubles with fighting and disturbances involving drunk people and this year that has not been the case. It could be a coincidence, but I still believe its some effect of our Sobercoin.”

On Sobercoin’s purpose, Willems added: “It’s just to get the conversation started that people can acknowledge that there is a problem and maybe we are the generation to try to change that.”

Data from the World Health Organization showed that the average consumption of pure alcohol in Belgium is 12 liters per capita per year, which is above the mean European consumption. An estimated of 15% of Belgians consume alcohol in excess, while 7% have developed an addiction. As per Belgian law, the minimum age for purchasing beverages containing less than 1.2 % of distilled alcohol is 16.