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Alcohol Survey Results In ‘Wake Up Call’

4 July 2002

Justice Minister Phil Goff says survey results showing that most liquor off-licences are not requesting evidence of age from young purchasers must serve as a wake up call for industry.

“The survey by the Alcohol and Public Health Unit, funded by the Ministry of Health showed that 18-year-old ‘pseudo patrons’ were able to purchase alcohol without ID from 80 percent of grocery outlets, 59 percent of bottle shops and 53 percent of supermarkets visited.

“When Parliament in 1999 was considering lowering the drinking age to 18, industry and other lobbyists assured Parliamentarians that the new legal age for purchase was enforceable and would be enforced.

“This was critical if the de facto age of purchasing was not to fall to 15 or 16.

“The Evidence of Age Card was provided for in the legislation to enable liquor outlets to ensure that purchasers were of a legal age.

“The survey however demonstrates that ages are not being checked in the majority of cases nor is signage indicating the legal requirement always evident.

“Hospitality and retail bodies should ensure that in selling to younger people their members routinely to ask for evidence of age cards.

“The industry must adopt this as good business practice and train staff accordingly.

“Observance of the laws is not a voluntary exercise and increasingly sanctions are likely to apply where liquor outlets don’t make the effort to enforce the minimum legal age.

“Police and District Licensing Agencies have started what are called ‘controlled purchase operations’. Young people under 18 are sent into premises to purchase alcohol, in the same way that the Ministry of Health has used controlled purchase operations to enforce the legal age for buying cigarettes.
“Sanctions include suspension and possible cancellation of licences, which impose significant financial costs. Licensees are also liable for criminal prosecution.

“Enforcement of the law by itself will not solve the problem of under age and excessive drinking. We need to change the culture of teenage binge drinking, just as we have successfully changed the culture surrounding drink driving.

“Government will be working with health groups in a longer-term strategy aimed at making intoxication, particularly among young people, something which is condemned socially rather than condoned,” Mr Goff said.

Ends

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