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NZMA repeats call for higher drinking age

MEDIA RELEASE TO: All Health Reporters/Chief Executives/Press Officers

FROM: Dr John Adams, NZMA Chairman

DATE: Friday, 22 February 2002

SUBJECT: NZMA repeats call for higher drinking age

The New Zealand Medical Association today repeated its call for the legal drinking age to be increased to 20 following the release of a Ministry of Justice report into teen drinking.

"This report confirms and reinforces our fears about young people, including 14- and 15-year-olds, drinking more alcohol, and drinking more often," said NZMA Chairman Dr John Adams.

"As well, it is clear that more young people are receiving hospital treatment for alcohol-related problems than before the drinking age was lowered in 1999, and alcohol-related offending by teenagers has increased."

Despite the report's statistics indicating that lowering the drinking age has had mixed results, Dr Adams said the NZMA believed enough data was available to show the lowered drinking age is a major public health problem.

Dr Adams said the NZMA supports the report's call for more research into the effects of teen drinking. The statistics quoted in the report do not explicitly measure the impact of lowering the drinking age, and more research in this area is needed.

Dr Adams said the detrimental effects of excessive drinking were well known.

"If young people choose to drink, then for their own health and safety they should be encouraged to drink responsibly and in moderation."

He said the NZMA was also concerned that the drinking age is not being enforced as vigorously as it should be.

"Bar owners and staff must take more responsibility for checking the ID of young people, and police must take a zero tolerance line on bars and venues which are lax in enforcing the drinking age. Parents and other people who are legally able to purchase alcohol should think carefully before supplying alcohol to young teenagers."


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