According to a TV 1/Colmar Brunton poll 71% of New Zealanders support the call to return the “drinking age” to 20 years.

Following the recent report by the Ministry of Justice on the impact of lowering the minimum purchase age for alcohol, Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says the age change has been a significant factor in the worsening outcomes for young drinkers. We need to look now at what strategies are effective to improve the situation and these are often not the most popular solutions.

There’s good international evidence that increasing the age will be effective at reducing harm and that is what we must aspire to. It must form part of a range of strategies that will help to change attitudes and reduce the easy access to alcohol by younger teens.

Alcohol Healthwatch is also calling for other amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act. The raising the purchase age is just one strategy – there are a number of other changes to the Act that will strengthen it in relation to young people.

There’s huge pressure for alcohol to be viewed as just another commodity - widely advertised and available 24/7 at competitive prices. It’s an environment that suits commercial interests rather than goals to reduce harm and improve the health and safety of New Zealanders. It’s an environment that supports and reinforces a culture of excessive drinking and the resulting harms.

In this context Alcohol Healthwatch believes we need to thoroughly review the way alcohol is promoted to society through advertising – asking, if it is appropriate for a drug that has such huge health, social and economic costs to be promoted at all.

There is strong evidence for increasing the price to reduce harm. Even a modest increase in tax can help to discourage overuse and make the user pay for the costs to society of harms.

We need to be bold and responsible enough to do all it takes to create a healthier environment around alcohol, particularly one which protects our most vulnerable. This will involve a complete package of stronger legislation and adequate resources for the effective enforcement of this.

Stronger laws send a clearer message to society about acceptable alcohol use. Law change used in conjunction with other initiatives, including those which support adults to reflect on and modify the attitudes and behaviours they model to young people, will have the greatest effect.

Media Contact:
Rebecca Williams
Director
Alcohol Healthwatch
Ph: (09) 520 7035
Mob: 021 862 250
Action on Liquor Campaign information and briefing papers (including one on amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act) can be found at www.ahw.co.nz