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Social supply to underage drinkers still too high

New research from Massey University’s SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre shows social supply of alcohol to friends under 18 has reduced following a law change (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012), but the quantities of alcohol supplied are still alarmingly high.

The study, led by senior researcher Dr Taisia Huckle, found it was less common for suppliers to purchase alcohol to give to friends under 18, and more said they supervised the minors while drinking. “While it’s a positive that friends are being supplied with fewer drinks, down from 13 in 2013 to 11 drinks in 2015, it’s still far too high.”

Two national general population surveys of drinkers were analysed before and after the law change, which came into effect on December 1 2013. The updated law made it illegal for anyone to supply alcohol to a person under 18 without the express consent of their parent or guardian. It also required that supply be done in a responsible manner, which could include supervising the consumption.

The surveys asked social suppliers about to whom, how much and how often they supplied to under 18s in 2013 and 2015.

Key findings:

To whom and how much is supplied

• Of suppliers, 48 per cent provided alcohol to sons/daughters, 22 per cent to friends and 28 per cent to other relatives.

• Friends were usually supplied 11 drinks, the equivalent of 11 stubbie beer bottles.

• Sons/daughters were usually supplied 6 drinks, the equivalent of six stubbie beer bottles.

• The top ten per cent of suppliers usually provided the equivalent of 20 stubbie beer bottles.

• Three-quarters of suppliers did not think the alcohol they supplied would be shared.

Impact of law change

• Following the law change, a decrease in the frequency of social supply to under 18s was found – from around once every seven weeks to once every nine weeks.

• Suppliers less commonly supplied to friends under 18 (30 per cent in 2013 to 22 per cent in 2015); friends were supplied with fewer drinks (13 in 2013 to 11 drinks in 2015); and there was a tendency for greater supervision of social supply to friends (63 per cent in 2013 to 79 per cent in 2015) and other relatives (53 per cent in 2013 to 60 per cent in 2015).

“The reductions in social supply to friends following the law change represents an improvement. However, the quantities supplied to friends and their under-age children are still too high, which reinforces the need for affirmative action on social supply at the policy, family and whānau and wider community level,” Dr Huckle says.

The study was funded by the Health Promotion Agency.

Note: Social supply is defined as the supply of alcohol to adolescents under the minimum purchase age (18 years) via social sources such as parents/guardians, friends and others.

Read the full report here.

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