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MPs Should Not Lower Drinking Age - NZMA

The New Zealand Medical Association calls on MPs not to put the health of young New Zealanders at further risk by lowering the drinking age.

“Lowering the drinking age to 18 will only worsen the poor public health consquences associated with teenage drinking,” says NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay.

“New Zealand teenagers already have a binge culture when it comes to alcohol, and many flout the law to drink under-age. Lowering the age limit will not improve this situation, it will just give young people more access to alcohol and lead to even younger people drinking.”

Excess drinking already causes more than 1000 premature deaths each year in New Zealand, including from road crashes, and permanent brain and liver damage. New Zealand already has one of the highest death rates in the world for 15- to 24-year-olds from road crashes. Lowering the drinking age is likely to add to that toll.

MPs debating lowering the legal drinking age should carefully consider the evidence against it from overseas, Dr MacKay says.

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. There is no good reason to believe that New Zealand, which is culturally similar to these states, would be immune to the same outcomes.

“If the present legal drinking age is currently unable to be enforced, then the answer is not to lower the drinking age but to introduce effective ways of enforcing age limits. Photo IDs on driver licences, for example, are one way of enforcing age limits. More effective training of bar staff is another,” Dr MacKay says.


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