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Adults pivotal to reducing harmful teen drinking

Adults pivotal to reducing harmful teen drinking says ALAC

New Zealand has a drinking culture where harmful drinking patterns and intoxication are not only accepted, but also in some instances aspired to, says the Alcohol Advisory Council.

Writing in ALAC’s annual report for the year ended 30 June 2003 which was tabled in Parliament today, Council chairman Professor Andrew Hornblow says reducing alcohol-related harm meant challenging the drinking culture and ultimately creating a new one.

“Encouraging steps have been taken over the past year,” he says.

Youth drinking issues have been vigorously debated, culminating in Government and community commitment to our “Youth Access to Alcohol” programme; improvements have been made to Sale of Liquor Act compliance (on age identification); Government has encouraged the consumption of lower alcohol products through excise tax changes; and coalitions of community providers have achieved a number of other successes outlined in this report.

However, Professor Hornblow says adults must acknowledge their responsibility to youth.

“If we are to reduce alcohol-related harm for all New Zealanders, not just young people, adults must look hard at ways in which their own behaviour is a contributing factor.

“It is adults who set the scene, and on whom young people model themselves. It is adults who manufacture, advertise, sell and supply alcohol. It is through adults changing irresponsible drinking and supply that we can begin to change the culture around drinking – the culture that leads to harm.

“We all have a role to play.”

In its annual report ALAC says it will embark on a programme tackling the acceptance of intoxication in New Zealand and comprising a range of tactics from education to marketing, enforcement and policy.

Expanding on Professor Hornblow’s call for adults to play their role in tackling teen drinking, the report says one of the most significant strategic issues to be addressed over the year was that of youth drinking. Wide discussion and significant research led ALAC to identify the need to address youth drinking through a focus on the societal norms that shape young people’s more hazardous drinking.

Research suggests that although binge drinking by young people is the focus of much public and political attention, young people’s drinking patterns are modelled to a great extent on those of adult New Zealanders.

Therefore, focusing on changing the norms and culture around alcohol consumption and intoxication is likely to have the greatest impact.

Some highlights outlined in the annual report

A study undertaken by Dr Peter Watson, University of Auckland, and part funded by ALAC was released in April. New Zealand Youth – A Profile of their Health and Wellbeing provided valuable information on youth drinking.

In December, ALAC released a report commissioned from economist Brian Easton exploring New Zealand’s alcohol excise tax structure. Sub- sequentially Parliament decided to raise the excise tax on certain alcohol products.

In its submission to the Liquor Advertising Review 2003 ALAC called for a tightening of the codes and an alignment of the range of liquor promotional codes to address New Zealand’s current heavy drinking culture. Since the report was compiled the panel has released its decision adopting many of ALAC’s submissions and most importantly linking ALAC’s National Guidelines on the Naming, Packaging and Merchandising of Alcoholic Beverage to the advertising code.

The Ngä Manga Püriri group of Northland-based community leaders also received ALAC support during the year. Its approach to addressing alcohol misuse is through kaumätua, who provide leadership and training to Maori communities and whänau. ALAC worked with the group to develop new training modules and also brought group representatives to its Christchurch wänanga to share their approach with other Maori health and community workers. This was a highly motivating move for attendees. ALAC also supported the Auckland-based Nga- Tahi Ra network in developing a video resource kit to reduce alcohol-related harm for rangatahi. Significant steps were also taken during the year to establish networks with Maori in the South Island.

The Youth Access to Alcohol programme continued to roll out across New Zealand in 20 communities. The programme, which focuses on supply reduction to those under 18 years old, involves communities that demonstrate their ability and commitment to work together on a range of activities, one of which is the high-profile Think Before You Supply to Under 18s publicity campaign.

Recognising its strategic focus on Maori whänau, ALAC established a Kaumätua Advisory Group to advise and help it meet its Treaty obligations and ensure Council is responsive to Maori needs. ALAC confirmed three appointments to that group. Pihopa Kingi, Te Arawa Kaumätua and Chairman of the Rotorua Addiction Resource Centre, Te Utuhina Manaakitanga Trust, was appointed to head the group, supported by Nellie Rata from Te Tai Tokerau, an active member of Ngä- Manga Püriri, and Te Whe Phillips from Rapaki, Te Waipounamu, who is actively involved at Te Rünanga o Ngai Tahu.

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