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Age increase won't solve drinking culture

8 June 2005

Age increase won't solve drinking culture

Green MPs will cast a conscience vote on Matt Robson's Bill, which would return the legal age for buying alcohol to 20 years, Co-Leaders Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons say.

The issue is likely to be voted on today by Parliament with two Green MPs - Mike Ward and Ian Ewen-Street - supporting its progress to Select Committee for further discussion. The remaining seven MPs are opposing the Bill.

Mr Donald says the Green caucus is united in the view that problems with teenage drinking do not just stem from the lowered drinking age.

"Binge and excessive drinking is a widespread social problems that can only be addressed by an equally widespread change society's attitude towards alcohol," Mr Donald says.

The Greens are unanimous in wanting stricter controls on the promotion and sponsorship of alcohol, a ban broadcast advertising of alcohol and stricter enforcement of the current rules.

"Mike and Ian have supported the Bill's progress to Select Committee in the hope that provisions that address these issues can be strengthened and expanded," Mr Donald says.

Ms Fitzsimons, who opposed lowering the age in 1999, says she believes it would now be pointless to raise it again.

"I can't see how you can tell a 19-year-old, who has been able to drink for a year, that they will now have to stop and wait till they're 20. I do not believe raising the drinking age is the solution or panacea to teenage binge drinking, or a substitute for taking real action on the drinking culture in New Zealand.

"We all agree there is a serious problem with some teenagers binge drinking and we all support the provisions in the bill that would restrict liquor advertising on television although we don't believe they go nearly far enough. We also all agree that the current law is not being enforced properly, more resources need to be allocated to ensure that it is and that existing penalties are properly enforced.

"Those of us who oppose this bill would rather support a select committee inquiry into why the current legislation is not working, decide how to fix these problems and identify how we can change the drinking culture in New Zealand, as has been achieved with smoking, Ms Fitzsimons says.


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