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Mixed results in survey on 18 19 year old drinking

Mixed results in survey on 18, 19 year old drinking

The Ministry of Justice's latest survey on youth drinking shows mixed results on the impact of lowering the drinking age in 1999, says Justice Minister Phil Goff.

The report, 'Young People and Alcohol: Some Statistics to 2003 and 2004 on Possible Effects of Lowering the Purchasing Age', is the fourth in an annual series examining statistics from Police and other relevant sources.

Mr Goff said he had asked the Ministry to bring forward publication of the report so that it was available to MPs voting on Matt Robson's Private Member's Bill tonight, which seeks to raise the drinking age to 20.

"The Ministry's latest report, like past reports, presents a mixed picture. Some statistics show negative trends in some areas since the lowering of the minimum purchase age; others show the continuation of trends evident before the change in legislation, and some show improvements in social statistics," Mr Goff said.

"I intend to vote for the Bill proceeding to select committee. The committee needs to closely examine whether evidence shows that lowering the drinking age to 18 has had significant negative effects and whether raising it again would effectively address alcohol abuse problems in New Zealand. Decisions on the legislation should be evidence rather than emotion-based.

"I voted against lowering the drinking age in 1999, but it is not clear that raising it again will be effective when 18 is for all other purposes the legal age of adulthood.

"A key problem is the deep-seated cultural attitude in our society that getting drunk is all right, and that goes well beyond 18 and 19 year olds. Binge drinking by young people is a real concern. It is a serious problem among 12 to 17 year olds who cannot legally purchase alcohol but are often provided with it by family members. Raising the drinking age will not fix that problem.

"The impact of other factors also needs to be assessed by the committee, including the impact of greater disposable income on youth (and adult) consumption of alcohol, and whether alcohol abuse is a problem of a minority or majority of 18 and 19 year olds.

Key statistics in the report are:

The number of minors (those under 18) caught drinking, or possessing, alcohol in a public place has increased, with the majority of offences dealt with by infringement notices;

The number of minors dealt with by Police in 2004 for being in restricted areas on licensed premises was lower than at any time when the drinking age was 20.

The number has been steadily decreasing since 1995;

The number of minors dealt with by Police for purchasing liquor continues to fluctuate at around half the level it was before the law change;

The number of convictions under the Sale of Liquor Act for supplying minors decreased from 46 in 1994 to 10 in 2001, before increasing to 39 in 2003 and decreasing again to 24 in 2004;

Apprehensions for disorderly behaviour across all age groups were increasing before 1999, and continue to do so.

The proportion of those apprehensions involving people under 18 remains around 16-18 per cent;

The percentage of drivers aged under 20 years failing random breath tests declined from 3.3 per cent in 1997 to 1.4 per cent in 2004;

The number of 14-17 years old prosecuted for driving with excess alcohol continues to increase, from 859 in 1995 to 911 in 1999, and to 1184 in 2004;

From 1995-99, the number of 18-19 years old prosecuted for driving with excess alcohol fluctuated between 1990 and 2274, but has increased since then to reach 2974 in 2004, the highest level in a decade;

The number of 15-19 year olds involved in alcohol-related crashes has increased but is still much lower than it was in the early 1990s;

The number of young people being hospitalised for alcohol-related issues has continued to increase since 1997, although the number of those aged 15-17 declined to 170 in 2003 after peaking at 236 in 2002.

Note: The Ministry of Justice's report is available at http://www.justice.govt.nz.

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