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Positive first step to change drinking culture

8 June, 2004

Positive first step to change drinking culture

The New Zealand Drug Foundation has congratulated the New Zealand Parliament for the wise decision to send the Sale of Liquor Amendment (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Bill to select committee for consideration.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the move was the first concrete step to change New Zealand's drinking culture through evidence-based policy.

"The best way to tackle the problems of New Zealand's drinking culture is to simply look at what works and what doesn’t, and the evidence clearly shows that returning the alcohol purchase age to 20 years old is an effective measure," said Mr Bell.

"However, it is naïve to think that raising the age alone would solve the problems created by our drinking culture. We need a comprehensive package of measures that combines good legislation, community action and public education.

"The strength of this bill is that it also seeks to address the role that advertising plays in developing negative drinking behaviour and the irresponsible supply of alcohol by adults to minors."

Mr Bell said that opposition to the bill and the decision by some MPs to vote against even sending it to select committee was disappointing.

"The select committee is an ideal forum to hear the evidence for and against returning the drinking age to 20. It is disappointing that some MPs talk about evidence-based policy yet deny themselves the opportunity to hear the evidence because of a philosophical opposition to returning the age back to 20," he said.

"Let's be clear, this is not about criminalising young people. It’s about taking bold steps that are necessary to reverse the harms caused by alcohol.

"The impact of lowering the age has been bleakly reflected in many negative social indicators such as binge drinking rates, the increase in alcohol accessed by children younger than 16 and drink driving rates among young people," said Mr Bell.

The Drug Foundation’s new website - www.20years.co.nz - contains concise and easy-to-read information about the drinking age and alcohol advertising.

ENDS

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