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Proposed drinking age changes ludicrous

20 October 2006

Proposed drinking age changes ludicrous and unhelpful

The recommendation by the Law and Order Select Committee that the legal age for the purchase of alcohol be raised from 18 to 20 with a number of bizarre exemptions is disappointing, Green Party Alcohol and Drug Spokesperson Metiria Turei says.

The select committee has recommended that two private members bills be passed, one restricting alcohol advertising on television to between 10pm and midnight, and the other raising the legal purchase age to 20, but allowing 18 and 19-year-olds to work or perform in restricted areas and to drink on on-license premises with their former guardians or legal spouses over 20.

"These proposed changes are ridiculous and will no nothing to reduce alcohol-related harms. There is no conclusive evidence that alcohol-related harms have increased for young people since the age was lowered to 18 in 1999," Mrs Turei says.

"The ridiculous nature of the proposed change is highlighted by the fact that the bill has had to create a new legal category of 'former guardian' to allow 18 and 19 year olds to have a drink on on-license premises with their parents.

"We recognise adults who can vote, serve in the armed forces, marry, and draw down mortgages no longer need legal guardians, and yet this bill would create an absurd category of 'former guardian' solely for the purpose of having a drink in a pub.

"It's also incongruous that under this change 18 and 19 year-olds would be able to work in restricted areas, serve alcohol, perform in a band, but not be in the audience to watch that band without a parent or spouse present.

"The real problem with drinking in New Zealand is with the prevalent social more that binge-drinking is acceptable. This isn't restricted to young people, and they shouldn't be punished for it. The only way to address this problem is through policy measures like the restriction of advertising and public education.

"Unfortunately, the restrictions on advertising proposed by this bill don't go nearly far enough, making the clearly unfounded assumption that young people, including 18 and 19 year olds, don't watch television after 10pm at night. It also would place no restriction on radio advertising whatsoever, despite the fact that radio is a very popular entertainment medium in this age group.

"The Green Party believes that broadcast advertising of alcohol should be banned completely, and my private members bill to do just that was fortunately recently pulled from the ballot.

"We totally reject these proposals, and I hope that MPs from other parties will do the same when the bills come before the House," Mrs Turei says.


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