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Raising the age of purchase is not the answer

Raising the age of purchase is not the answer

The proposal to raise the purchase age of alcohol to 20 is largely based on emotion and selective use of research material.

This claim was made by the Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ), lead by their president Bill McLean and chief executive Bruce Robertson during its presentation to the Select Committee hearing in Wellington today.

it has been suggested that the bill restores the previous age of purchase to 20, but it won’t,” Mr Robertson said.

Prior to 1999, 18 year olds were able to purchase and consumer alcohol on licensed premises under a range of circumstances. A wide range of exemptions and the lack (at that time) of effective photo ID meant that the de facto age of purchase on licensed premises was 18, anyway, Mr McLean said.

He said we now have a much more robust law and process.

Mr Robertson said that about 50,000 New Zealanders turn 18 each year and 80% of them (40,000) have a photo drivers licence.

“Add to that the 9,000 ‘18+ cards’ and you have a huge percentage of 18-20 year olds carrying identification with them, making it relatively simple for policing purposes,” he said.

He also argued the statistical information being circulated claiming a massive surge in ‘harm indices’ which indicate that an excess of 18 & 19 years olds were causing problems.

“The fact is that the Ministry of Justice has concluded in each of its four reports that there is no clear picture on whether lowering the minimum purchase age has had a detrimental effect on young people’s drinking behaviour.

“There are changes in patterns of young people and their drinking habits which show that young people are drinking more on more occasions.

“These are trends which commenced well before 1999 and the trend lines have not changed since the purchase age was normalised in 1999 or beer was added to supermarkets, or indeed the addition of broadcast advertising of alcohol products,” Mr Robertson said.

He also pointed to the positive changes in that same period.

“Of the 293 drivers killed in New Zealand in 1999 who were tested for the presence of alcohol, five were aged 15-17 with a Blood Alcohol Count over 30 mg. In 2002, there were eight. In 1996, there were eight. In 1992, there were 15.”

He said that these figures were sourced from LTSA, [now Land Transport New Zealand] – Motor Vehicle Crashes in New Zealand and would appear to be too small to show a trend.

He said that the statistics also showed:

* Alcohol-related traffic fatalities have decreased by 63% since 1989.

* Alcohol-related traffic injuries have decreased by 53% since 1989.

* Alcohol offences have decreased by 76% since 1998

* ALAC’s 2003 Youth Drinking Monitor states that only 13% (5% unprompted, 8% prompted) of 14-17 year old current drinkers said they had bought alcohol themselves. This means that 87% of supply came from parents, friends, siblings, other family members and strangers.

* 84% of current drinkers aged 14-17 said that on their last drinking occasion, a parent or guardian was aware that they were drinking.

“Perhaps the most significant statistic is that 84% of current drinkers aged 14-17 said that on their last drinking occasion, a parent or guardian was aware that they were drinking.

This reinforces the Association’s view that alcohol use is a societal issue and has more to do with parental attitude than it does with legislative imperatives.

Mr Robertson told the Select Committee that the Hospitality Association strongly supports the Alcohol Advisory Council's cultural change approach to minimising harm from alcohol.

He said that the data available simply does not support the changes proposed in this bill.


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