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Time Government Did Something About Youth Drinking

Media release from ALAC
19 November 2001


Time Government Did Something About Youth Drinking

New figures showing a worsening in youth drinking over the past 5 years have lead the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) to call on the government to take a serious look at the problem. The Auckland University survey of 5113 people released today shows that New Zealanders aged under 20 are drinking more heavily than they did in 1995. There were particularly marked increases among 14-17 year olds. The legal age for purchasing alcohol in New Zealand is 18 years.

ALAC Chief Executive, Dr Mike MacAvoy says: “In 1999 Parliament lowered the drinking age despite indications that a significant proportion of young people were already drinking at risky levels. Many health and safety organisations advised against the change because they believed it would result in increased harm. We are now seeing the downstream effects of that and other policy changes of the past few years. There has been talk for months of a Justice Ministry review of the drinking age change but I see little evidence of that actually happening.”

An important finding in the survey which ALAC believes should not be overlooked is that most of the alcohol under age drinkers get has been supplied to them by friends or parents. Fifty-eight percent of the under age drinkers surveyed had had alcohol purchased for them by friends and 46% by parents in the past 12 months. While parents can legally purchase and supply alcohol to their own children it is generally not legal for friends to do so.

“The reality is that teenagers have no problems getting alcohol – all they need to do is ask an older friend or parent to buy it and they’re away. While licensed premises could improve their game we would in fact be missing the point if we just cracked down on pubs and bottle stores. We should be focusing our attention on why young people are able to obtain alcohol so easily and what we can do at a political and community level to stop it. A good start would be to look at the legislation because it is wishy washy in terms of supplying alcohol to under 18s. Then we could have a look at how we make sure the law is upheld. This is without even discussing the merits or otherwise of raising the age back to 20.

“ALAC’s mandate is to reduce alcohol problems and encourage moderation. Young people are a priority group for us but all the education in the world isn’t going to make an iota of difference if the policy and enforcement support isn’t there to back it up. It’s time someone got serious about sorting this mess out,” says Dr MacAvoy.


ENDS

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