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Goff Releases Drinking Age Statistical Report

Justice Minister Phil Goff released today a report by the Ministry of Justice on trends in alcohol-related problems following the lowering of the minimum legal drinking age from 20 to 18 in 1999.

“I asked the Ministry to do this work to better inform the debate over the changes in the Sale of Liquor Act 1999 after concerns were raised last year about excessive drinking by some young people.

“Statistics thus far available are not yet conclusive about the impact of lowering the drinking age. Further and more complete data from 2001 is needed to better assess the impact of the law change. The statistics currently available however support concerns in some areas but not in others.

“Among the findings are that since the lowering of the drinking age,

- The number and percentage of 15-19 year-old drivers involved in vehicle crashes where alcohol was a factor have decreased.

- Hospitalisations of 15-19 year-olds where the primary diagnosis was alcohol-related have increased.

- Overall there has been no significant increase in the number of 14-19 year-olds drinking, but the frequency and the amount consumed by those who do drink has increased.

- The volume of alcohol consumed overall has decreased but there was a significant increase in consumption of spirit-based drinks (eg “alcopops’).

“The report has been circulated to interested groups including the health sector groups, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, the LTSA, the Hospitality Association, the Police, Alcohol and Drug Services and Students Against Drunk Driving.

“These groups have been invited to make submissions to the Ministry on actions necessary in response to problems highlighted in the report.

“With or without the changes made by the Sale of Liquor Act 1999, alcohol abuse and particularly binge drinking by some teenagers are serious problems in New Zealand.

“The report reinforces the need for changing the culture surrounding drinking which requires more than simply legislative change. In particular more attention needs to be given to the impact of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, especially on young women drinkers.

“The Ministries of Justice and Health will meet with interested groups following receipt of submissions to determine what recommendations should be made to Government and Parliament on these issues,” Mr Goff said.


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