Indications are good for Progressive MP Matt Robson’s private members bill concerning the minimum purchase age for alcohol, along with a range of other measures to control supply to young people and the advertising of alcohol, to progress to Select Committee.
Parliament discusses and votes on the Bill tonight and Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says that sending it through for Select Committee consideration will be a positive step in the right direction.
Williams says that the Select Committee process will allow for the evidence and public opinion on the various issues to be heard. No-one sees the Bill as the perfect or single solution however, it does provide an ideal opportunity for us to set a new course to reverse current negative trends.
Williams believes a Select Committee would make strong recommendations after it weighs up the negative consequences of our drinking culture and the evidence pointing to what works to turn that around.
Williams understands that some people under 20 years may feel like they ‘missing out’. However she notes that while we have a heavy drinking culture generally, the 18 and 19 year old age group are our heaviest drinkers according to the latest available national survey data*. This translates to increased risk and subsequent harm.
The effects of the lowered purchase age on even younger teens cannot be ignored. We have seen increased hospitalisations and the frequency of drinking by young people 14 – 17 years is on the increase. These have profound health and social implications which call for stronger efforts in response.
Alcohol Healthwatch believes that our nation’s public policy framework holds the greatest promise to achieve positive change and therefore hopes this evening’s vote will herald in a new start to considering these options more fully.
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* Drinking in New Zealand National Surveys Comparison 1995 & 2000 (Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit).
Action on Liquor Campaign information and briefing papers (including one on amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act and alcohol advertising) can be found at www.ahw.co.nz