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Doctors say more evidence needed on teen drinking


All Health Reporters/Chief Executives/Press Officers

FROM: Dr Pippa MacKay, NZMA Chairman

DATE: 30 November, 1999

SUBJECT: Doctors say more evidence needed on teen drinking

Research is needed to gauge the effects of lowering the drinking age, the New Zealand Medical Association says.

The NZMA opposed lowering the legal drinking age from 20 to 18, on public health grounds, when it was debated earlier this year. The law change takes effect from tomorrow.

"Evidence from many states in Australia and the United States showed that public health suffered when the drinking age was lowered," said NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay. "Many of these states then reverted to an older drinking age and reversed many of the negative trends."

"Now that the drinking age has been lowered here it would be very unfortunate if New Zealand, which is culturally similar to these states, suffered the same outcomes. New Zealand already has one of the highest death rates in the world for 15- to 24-year-olds from road crashes.

"New Zealand teenagers already have a binge culture when it comes to alcohol, and many flouted the law to drink under-age. Lowering the age limit will give young people more access to alcohol."

Dr MacKay said there was an absence of hard data about the effects of teen drinking.

"Research is needed to find out exactly what the long-term effects are, in order to determine future policies. The health of young New Zealanders is too important for this to be ignored.

"In the meantime, the NZMA looks forward to the new legal drinking age being effectively enforced and intoxicated young people not being sold alcohol. Photo IDs are one way of enforcing age limits, and better training of bar staff is another," Dr MacKay said.


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