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Under-age alcohol sales down, but still too many

Under-age alcohol sales down, but still too many

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor is heartened by results of a survey that show fewer Auckland minors are being sold alcohol without proof of age, but is concerned that many outlets are still not checking for age.

The Massey University survey, which used 18-year-old 'pseudo-patrons' who attempted to buy alcohol without being asked for identification, showed that almost half of these attempts were successful.

While this is an improvement on the 61 percent of successful purchases recorded in a similar survey last year, the figures is still way too high, Mr O'Connor said.

"Asking for proof of age is a social responsibility that not enough off-license owners and managers are taking sufficiently seriously," he said.

"Verifying the age of customers takes only a few moments, yet evidently is not a priority for many liquor outlets. This is disappointing, especially given the assurances the industry promised when the drinking age was lowered to 18 that they would be working hard to ensure young people verified their age when purchasing alcohol.

"Underage drinking is a problem we can't ignore, and off-license owners and managers must come to the party if we are to succeed in changing this current culture of excessive and dangerous drinking by young people.

"I would urge every individual outlet to work on setting up its own policy of verifying age, and then ensure that staff are trained to know when to establish proof of age, and to be confident they are being presented with genuine identification."

Mr O'Connor said he was pleased that some outlets had been pro-active in getting the number of sales to underage drinkers down. Supermarkets, in particular, had made a big effort since the last pseudo-patron survey, with un-checked sales now down to one in three attempts.

"Some supermarkets are now requiring a visual check of age of all customers by a dedicated checkout manager, and it is now standard to see signs saying that all customers 'lucky enough' to look under the age of 25 will be asked for ID. It's this sort of vigilance that needs to be replicated across all liquor outlets."

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