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Warning Issued To Alcohol Retailers

The Minister of Justice Tony Ryall delivered a strong warning to alcohol retailers today. At a summit meeting convened by ALAC on the eve of the drinking age being lowered to 18, Tony Ryall said that if alcohol problems increased among young people, Parliament may put the age back up.

He told the meeting that Parliamentarians wondered whether suppliers of alcohol could be trusted to comply with the new legislation since many had not done a very good job when the legal drinking age was 20. He said that while a good many Parliamentarians had been unsure about lowering the age - they did so in the belief that the package they put in place would protect young people. Measures such as photo ID, increased fines up to $10,000 for a liquor licensee and the introduction of instant fines for underage drinking are part of the package.

The summit called together representatives of government agencies, retailers and regulators to identify the actions they are taking from tomorrow to ensure that young people are not harmed by the lower drinking age.

ALAC chief executive Dr Mike MacAvoy says that while not everyone is pleased with the lowering of the drinking age, government and retailers must work together. The meeting heard the major actions each group is taking from tomorrow and came up with more than 50 further suggestions for strategies to keep young people safe.

Better communication between regulators and retailers, commitment to self regulation, greater training for staff, communication to the public - particularly young people - that the law is going to be complied with were among the many ideas put forward.

"Time and time again today we heard that enforcement of the law is the single most effective measure we can take to prevent under age drinking and all the problems that result from it.

"While ALAC is worried about what might happen from tomorrow I feel heartened by the positive commitment displayed today by those groups who have a crucial role in determining whether lowering the drinking age will result in increased harm to young people or not," says Dr MacAvoy.

ENDS....

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