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Exit Breath Survey 2005

Auckland Regional Alcohol Project – Media Release

Exit Breath Survey 2005

Results from the first New Zealand survey of young drinkers leaving on-licensed premises will be launched today.

Breath test readings of people under the age of 25 years exiting on-licence premises in the Auckland Region were measured. Nearly 75% of the breath test readings of survey participants aged 18 or 19 years and nearly half (42 %) of those aged 20 -24 years were over their respective legal limit for driving (150mcg/l for people aged for those under 20 years and 400mcg/l for those 20 years and over).

The survey also reported self and field worker assessments of intoxication.

Over 40% of survey participants reported that they were moderately intoxicated and approximately 8% reported that they were extremely intoxicated.

Approximately 34% of participants were rated by interviewers to be moderately intoxicated; approximately 8% of participants were rated as extremely intoxicated.

The average number of drinks that participants reported consuming over the night was around 9 standard drinks. Thirty seven percent of participants reported that they would usually drink more alcohol than they had consumed at the time they were surveyed. Almost half of the participants intended to go to another bar.

The survey was carried out for the Regional Alcohol Project – a group of public health agencies working to reduce alcohol-related harm in Auckland. Project spokesperson Rebecca Williams say these results suggest that licensees and staff may not be complying with the Sale of Liquor Act provisions that require them to refuse entry to intoxicated people or refuse them service. The findings of the survey give support to the current efforts of police, health and district licensing agencies to target intoxication issues and clearly indicate that reducing drinking and driving must also remain a high priority.

The survey also found that patrons tested between 1-4am had significantly higher breath alcohol levels than those tested between 9pm and midnight. “That’s the obvious flow on,” comments Williams, "Longer licensing hours give people more time to drink and therefore greater exposure to the alcohol-related risks like traffic crashes, injuries and violent offending."

Ms Williams says that the survey reinforces the need for good host responsibility practices and enforcement of the Sale of Liquor Act on licensed premises and points to the need for good planning around licensing hours. “Training of serving and door staff can help, but it needs to be backed up by rigorous enforcement by police and licensing authorities,” she says.

The survey took breath alcohol readings and interviewed 350 people under 25 as they left 111 bars, pubs and nightclubs in the Auckland region. It was funded by the Ministry of Health and carried out by the Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) and Te Ropu Whariki in Auckland.

The survey will be launched today at the North West Host Responsibility and Safer Environments Expo at North Shore Stadium, Albany.



The Auckland Regional Exit Breath Survey investigated breath alcohol levels of people under the age of 25 years exiting On Licence premises (nightclubs, taverns and rural hotels) in the Auckland Region. The selected premise types included those premises commonly referred to as bars and pubs. Data collection took place over four successive weekends in 2004. Two hundred and fifty On Licence premises were randomly selected to be visited.

Breath test readings (BTR)

- Nearly half of the breath test readings (BTR) for those aged under 25 years in the Auckland region (42%) were over the legal limit for driving (for people aged 20 years and over; 400mcg/l).

- Fourteen percent of the BTR were 600 mcg/l or above. Of these, 12% were between 601mcg/l and 800mcg/l. This is the equivalent to more than 6 drinks for an average man and more than 4 drinks for an average woman.1.

- Two percent of the BTR taken were over 800mcg/l, this is the equivalent of more than 8 drinks for an average man and more than 5 drinks for an average woman.

- The average BTR for men for the Auckland region was significantly higher than the average BTR for women (these averages include BTR readings of zero).

Levels of intoxication

- Over 40% of participants reported that they were moderately intoxicated and approximately 8% reported that they were extremely intoxicated.

- Approximately 34% of participants were rated by data collection field workers to be moderately intoxicated; approximately 8% of participants were rated as extremely intoxicated.

Premises with patrons showing signs of intoxication

- Fifty percent of premises visited in the Auckland region had at least one patron who showed visible signs of intoxication.

Other key results

- The average number of drinks that participants consumed at the premise they were leaving was 4. The total average that participants reported consuming over the night was around 9.

- Thirty seven percent of participants reported that they would usually drink more alcohol than they had consumed at the time of data collection.

- Half of the participants who had a BTR of over 400mcg/l were moving on to another licensed premise, 13% of people with a BTR of over 600mcg/l reported they were going to do the same.

- Average BTR significantly increased over the night.

1 This calculation is an estimate based on the average weight of a man and woman in New Zealand (Male 80.4; Female 69.7) (Ministry of Health, 1999) and does not take into account actual body weight of participants. A drink is 15mls of absolute alcohol.

Exit Breath Survey 2005
Background Information

The Regional Alcohol Project

The Regional Alcohol Project (RAP) group is made up of Ministry of Health funded public health providers who work in the Auckland Region and who aim is to reduce alcohol-related harm.

The RAP providers include:
- Auckland Regional Public Health Service
- Alcohol Healthwatch
- Waitakere City Council (Safe Waitakere Alcohol Project)
- Hapai Te Hauora Tapui Ltd
The Centre for Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation and Te Ropu Whariki (Massey University) provide evidence-based research input into this project.

Intoxication on licensed premises and the Sale of Liquor Act

Under Sections 166, 167 and 168 of the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 any licensee, manager or server of alcohol therefore has a legal obligation to:
1. prevent a person becoming intoxicated on a licensed premises
2. refuse service to a person who has become intoxicated
3. ensure an intoxicated customer leaves the premises
Substantial fines and/or suspension of a liquor licence exist for breaches of these provisions.

Host responsibility and the Sale of Liquor Act

Under the Sale of Liquor Act, licensees must ensure non-alcoholic and low alcohol beverages are available for patrons, as well as a range of food. They must also provide assistance with or information about alternative forms of transport from the premises.

ALAC’s Host responsibility guidelines for licensed premises (2005) outline expectations regarding host responsibility. They also contain a model for identifying and addressing the stages of intoxication.

The guidelines can be found on

Consumption statistics in the 18-25 year age group

In New Zealand 18-19 year olds are the heaviest drinking age group, followed by 20-24 year olds.

A survey of over 5,000 New Zealanders compared drinking patterns in 1995 with those of 2000:
– 18-19 year olds increased quantities consumed on a typical occasion from 5 to 7 drinks. The increase was particularly marked among women.

– in 2000 male and female 18-19 year olds consumed the largest amounts per session and the largest annual volume of alcohol. This was followed by 20-24 year olds.

(Habgood, Casswell, Pledger et al., 2001 Drinking in New Zealand – National Surveys Comparison)

In a study in 2000 of 1992 people aged 13-65 years who identified as Maori:
– consumption peaked at age 18-19 years, followed by 20-24 years
– 18-19 year olds were also the most frequent drinkers
(Moewaka Barnes, McPherson, Bhatta, 2003, Te Ao Waipiro 2000 Te Ropu Whariki & SHORE Research, Massey University

A recent national survey of drinking in Pacific people living in New Zealand also found measures of annual alcohol consumption and amount drunk on a typical occasion highest in the 18-20 age group, followed by 20-29 year age group.

(Huakau, Asiasiga, Ford et al., Pacific Drugs & Alcohol Consumption Survey, 2003,

Alcohol and risk-taking among young people

Alcohol is associated with an increase in risk taking behaviours amongst young New Zealanders, including injury, violence and high risk sexual activity. Compared with older age groups, young males aged 18 to 24 are groups experience disproportionate problems from their drinking, such as fighting or having serious arguments (Dacey, 1997; Field and Casswell, 1999; Wylie et al., 1996).

In 2000 a third of males and 20-30 % of female 18-24 years reported experiencing at least five problems from their drinking in the past year (such as unable to remember things done, felt the effects while at work or study, felt ashamed of actions etc). 20-25% of young people 18-29 years reported driving when they had probably had too much to drink (Habgood, 2001).

A study at a central Auckland emergency department found a 52% increase for 18 and 19 year olds presenting with alcohol-related problems in the twelve months after lowering the legal purchase age from 20 to 18 years of age (Everitt and Jones, 2002).

The number of publicly funded hospitalisations for 18-19 year olds where the primary diagnosis was alcohol related increased from 55 in 1996 to 138 in 2003 – an increase of 151% (Lash, 2005).

Over a seven month period in the Auckland region alcohol played a role in 23% of fall-related hospitalisations in people aged 16-19 years (Auckland Young Person’s Alcohol and Falls Study, 2002, Injury Prevention Research Centre).

High risk sexual activity
Intoxication is more likely to lead to high risk sexual activity. Compared to other age groups, young people 15- 24 years are over represented in the rates of sexually transmitted infections.

In 2004 the number of young people prosecuted for driving with excess alcohol was the highest recorded in the decade (Lash, 2005).

Data from Land Transport New Zealand (2001-2003) indicates 31% of drivers in the 15-24 year age group who were involved in fatal crashes had alcohol or drugs as a factor (25% in the 25 and over age group).

Alcohol increases the risk of offending. International research suggests that 50-70% of police work is alcohol-related.

Findings from a study of alcohol use in the Auckland CBD in 2001 show that the majority (65%) of alcohol-related violence occurred in the hours between midnight and 4am (Greenaway and Conway et al. 2002, Young people, alcohol and safer public spaces).

A standard drink is equivalent to:

– 10 gms of pure alcohol
– a 330ml can of beer @ 4% alcohol
– a 100ml glass of table wine (

“Binge drinking”

There is a range of definitions of “binge drinking”. In a recent survey conducted for ALAC of drinking attitudes and behaviours in New Zealand, the following criteria for over 18 year olds was used:
“consuming the equivalent of seven or more glasses of alcohol in a single drinking occasion” (BRC Marketing and Social Research, The way we drink, 2004)

Intoxication and the Liquor Licensing Authority

Currently in New Zealand there is no definition of the term “intoxication” in the Sale of Liquor Act.

LLA decision 909/2003-910/2003:
“Intoxication is a form of liquor abuse. Allowing a person to be or to become intoxicated in licensed premises are among the more serious examples of a failure to contribute to the reduction of liquor abuse."

LLA decision 131/2004-133/2004:
… “Liquor abuse, in particular binge drinking, has become a form of culture in this country. Parliament’s clear intention is to do something about that culture. The Liquor Licensing portfolio is often downgraded in busy Police stations. Provided enforcement applications have merit, they will be supported by this Authority because such applications will ultimately lead to a change of culture and a reduction of liquor abuse.”
In LLA decision 552-554/2003 where several substantially intoxicated patrons were found on the premises, the LLA suspended the licence for the St Georges Tavern for 14 days and the managers involved had their licences suspended for 1- 2 months.

Alcohol Marketing

Recent studies point to the link between advertising and young people’s drinking behaviours.

“In essence, the more familiar, aware and appealing the advertisement is to targeted groups, the more likely they are to drink now and in the future”. (Cooke, Hastings, Anderson, 2002, Prepared for the WHO by the Centre for Social Marketing, University of Strathclyde)
Young people across the globe live in environments characterised by aggressive and ubiquitous efforts encouraging them to initiate drinking and to drink heavily. As well the substantial and influential presence of alcohol marketing in the traditional media outlets of television, radio, print and outdoor, there is a rising importance of musical, sports and cultural sponsorships, internet-based promotions and web-sites, product placements, youth-oriented new product development, on-premise and special event promotions, and other efforts to make alcoholic beverages a normal and integral part of young people’s lives and cultures. (Dr Marc Danzon, Regional Director of the WHO, 2001)

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