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Tighter controls on under-age drinking needed

"It's time for politicians to rethink their attitude to teenagers drinking," says the New Zealand Medical Association.

The NZMA has joined calls for tighter restraints against under-age drinking.

"The NZMA opposed the lowering of the drinking age two years ago, and was concerned that New Zealand may face many of the negative public health effects experienced by other countries which lowered their drinking age," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams. "Unfortunately, both anecdotal and research evidence seems to point to this happening."

A presentation to a public health conference of new research from Auckland University on the sale of alcohol to under-age drinkers has showed that far fewer outlets were asking for ID than six months earlier.

"The NZMA favours a return to a legal drinking age of 20. If this does not happen, then ID checks of young people trying to buy liquor must be carried out more rigorously," Dr Adams said.

"New Zealand teenagers already have a binge culture when it comes to alcohol, and many don't hesitate to flout the law to drink under-age. With the age limit now set at 18, it seems that even younger teens are now gaining access to alcohol."

New Zealand already has one of the highest death rates in the world for 15- to 24-year-olds from road crashes.

Evidence from many states in Australia and the United States shows that public health suffered when the drinking age was lowered. Many of these states have reverted to an older drinking age and reversed many of the negative trends.

ENDS

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