Alcohol Healthwatch says whilst the current debate on the drinking age is important the real need is for wider law changes concerning alcohol.
The group, who undertake health promotion and advocacy to reduce alcohol-related harm, says that while the age at which people can purchase alcohol is an important factor, wider legislative change will be required to pave the way for a change in our drinking culture.
Alcohol Healthwatch believes that the current situation can only get worse given that the current laws are full of loop holes and that conflicting messages are given to both drinkers and retailers. Director Rebecca Williams says that the government must create legislative change that will support health agencies, enforcement agencies, families and communities to achieve a change in our drinking culture. Without a strong legislative framework and adequate resources, efforts to address the wide range of alcohol harms will be thwarted.
She says that the increasing use of desperate measures such as liquor bans is a clear sign that the country’s drinking legislation is not working. “We come face to face with the frustrations of those trying to make headway on alcohol issues on a daily basis.” Insufficient enforcement resources, difficulty obtaining appropriate penalties for offenders, total disregard of the law by many and community inability to control the proliferation of licensed premises are just some of the issues that she highlights.
Current legislation is at odds with achieving positive change. Wider recognition of the role of other laws and policies in redefining our drinking culture is needed. The reality is it’s not as simple as returning the minimum purchase age to 20 years. A tightening up of other laws concerning taxation, blood/alcohol levels for driving, advertising and promotion, product labelling and community input into licensing issues must also happen.
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