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Problems not increased since lowering the drinking age

Drinking problems not increased since lowering the drinking age, UC lecturer says

August 29, 2012

There appears no strong evidence of large increases in problem drinking among young people since lowering the alcohol purchase age to 18 to warrant increasing the drinking age, University of Canterbury economics lecturer Eric Crampton said today.

He was making comment before MPs tomorrow vote on the Alcohol Reform Bill in Parliament to keep the purchase alcohol age to 18 or increase it to 20. Prime Minister John Key has said he will vote for the split option: 18 in bars and 20 at off-licence liquor outlets.

Crampton who has been in Canberra this week addressing the National Press Club on alcohol issues, said a case would need to be made that the harm mitigation outweighed the costs to those young people who behaved responsibly, but there could be a case worth answering.

``The Ministry of Social Development's most current social report showed that problem drinking among 15-24 year olds - the narrowest category on which they reported - simply had not increased substantially since the lowering of the alcohol purchase age,’’ Crampton said.

``In 1996-1997, the rate of potentially hazardous drinking among youths aged 15-24 was no different than it was in 2006-2007, the last year for which data was reported; the alcohol purchase age was reduced to 18 in 1999.

``Why should we expect that increasing the purchase age will reduce harms now when reducing the purchase age did not change the rate of potentially hazardous drinking?’’

Crampton said if there were problems with youth drinking culture, those problems were unlikely to be remedied by changing the drinking age. How odd would it be for a couple marrying at 18 to be forbidden from buying a bottle of champagne to take home to celebrate, he said.

ends

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