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Impact Of Drinking Laws On The Young

8 May 2002

- An estimated 16 alcohol related deaths of 18 and 19 year olds in the year 2000, at a cost of $41.940 million.

- An estimated 145 non-fatal alcohol related outcomes from adverse health effects in the year 2000, at a cost of between about $1.604 million and $8.505 million depending on the severity of the injuries.

The above estimates come from a new report from the Alcohol Advisory Council which shows the emotional and physical health and wellbeing of young New Zealanders aged 18 and 19 have been put at risk by the lowering of the alcohol purchase age. This has been at a high financial and social cost, according to the report Assessment of the Health Impacts of the Lowering of the Minimum Legal Age for Purchasing Alcohol in New Zealand.

ALAC undertook the study, at the request of Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia. The report investigated how lowering the legal purchase age of alcohol impacted on the health of young people.

ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr MacAvoy says the estimates of deaths and non-fatal outcomes and associated costs are likely to be under-estimates of the overall harm.

He says: “Some of the long-term effects might include ongoing costs related to teenage pregnancies, children with fetal alcohol syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, sexual harassment, and mental health problems.”

The report indicates that increasing the price of alcohol through the alcohol excise tax is likely to have harm-reducing benefits. “This can be successful because young people are highly sensitive to price,” Dr MacAvoy says.

“The report also indicates the impact of lowering the minimum legal age of purchase has flowed on to younger age groups. Effective targeted enforcement of the law is currently lacking, yet has been shown to be highly effective in reducing access to alcohol by young people.”

The laws need to be enforced but they can only go so far, Dr MacAvoy says. “Ultimately the responsibility lies with each and everyone of us. Drinking is shaped by society.”

- The report complements the report that was undertaken by the Ministry of Justice early this year, which focused primarily on justice issues relevant to the amendment.

The full report is available on the ALAC website: www.alcohol.org.nz


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