Call to Return Drinking Age to 20

Alcohol Healthwatch calls on the government to raise the legal drinking age back to 20, following a report by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) which highlights significant increases in the amount alcohol–related harm experienced by young people.

The just released report confirms that Parliament’s decision to lower the legal drinking age (or legal age of purchase) to 18 years was tragic mistake! The report estimates that there were 16 alcohol-related deaths in the 18 – 19 year olds age group in the year 2,000. The report also estimated 145 non-fatal alcohol related serious outcomes from adverse health effects in the year 2000 for this age group. The total estimated cost was an appalling $80-$140 million a year. There must be better ways to spend this money within the health budget!

The report stated that the task of accurately assessing the effect of the legislative change is extremely difficult at this time, due to the lack of data and quality information for the period accessed. It remains disappointing that monitoring systems have not been put place to gather this information!

It is also unfortunate, that the health impacts of a lower drinking age on 15-17 age group were not considered in the report. ALAC has recommended that further research is needed on this age group as the potential health impacts on 15-17 year olds was a major argument against lowering the drinking age.

According to the report New Zealand adolescents have rates of pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and self-harm that are among the highest in the western world. Alcohol Healthwatch believes that raising the legal drinking age to 20 years could play a significant part of a major public health initiative to tackle these problems. If parliamentarians are committed to improving the health and well-being of young kiwis, then they need to look seriously at calling for a return to 20 years for the legal drinking age.


For further information contact:
Roger Eccles
Alcohol Healthwatch
Ph: (09) 520 7038
Email: eccles@ahw.co.nz