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Review of underage alcohol supply limited

Review of underage alcohol supply limited

The New Zealand Drug Foundation expressed concern at the Government’s limited response to tackle problems of underage drinking.

Pre-empting tonight’s vote on the Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction Bill, the Minister of Justice Mark Burton and Associate Health Minister Damien O’Connor announced a review of the supply and sale of alcohol to under 18 year olds.

The proposed review will examine the effectiveness of current restrictions on the sale and supply of alcohol to minors, and will take into account changes that have taken place since the purchase age was lowered in 1999, such as the increase number of outlets supplying alcohol.

The Drug Foundation labelled the review as a limited response to a huge problem, saying the focus of the review is too narrow.

“The Law & Order Committee has already undertaken a review of the weaknesses of our liquor laws –their consideration of the drinking age bill took eleven months and received 180 submissions The review announced today needs to take a broader look than simply access to alcohol by young people. While that is an important issue, the review should also examine the alcohol excise tax, the price of alcohol, and the role local governments can contribute to addressing the harms from alcohol,” said Ross Bell, executive director.

“Whatever the vote tonight, we need to do much more to address New Zealand’s drinking culture. There is enough evidence from overseas and within New Zealand that gives us a clear understanding of solutions to changing our drinking culture”, Ross Bell said.

Mr Bell said that communities now have high expectations of government to show greater leadership on alcohol policy.

“Communities should not expect serious issues like the problems from alcohol to be dealt with through private member’s bills and conscience votes. Instead the government, with support from all political parties, should take the lead to strengthen liquor laws, resource improved monitoring and enforcement of those laws, and do everything else it can to tackle the problems,” said Ross Bell.

The Drug Foundation acknowledged existing efforts, such as the Alcohol Advisory Council’s Culture Change programme and the Police’s new alcohol strategy, but said there are still gaps in the government’s response.

The Drug Foundation has developed an Eight Point Plan for Action on Alcohol which includes:

1. Increasing the excise tax on alcohol
2. Returning the minimum alcohol purchase age to 20 years
3. Strengthening the Sale of Liquor Act
4. Increasing effective enforcement
5. Discontinuing alcohol marketing on television
6. Allowing communities more control over liquor licensing
7. Improving treatment services nationwide
8. Discontinuing 'conscience voting' on alcohol issues

The Drug Foundation has written again today to members of Parliament to seek their support to progress the Alcohol Harm Reduction Bill through its second reading, which would allow MPs the opportunity to further strengthen the Bill.

ENDS

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