Dec 2001 - The Impacts of Lowering The Legal Minimum Drinking Age

To the Ministry of Justice

Executive Summary:

Alcohol Healthwatch believes that a significant increase in alcohol-related harm has resulted from the lowering of the drinking age in 1999. Despite a distinct lack of planned research and monitoring, the available evidence shows that this harm is widespread and multi-dimensional, with cultural and social implications as well as worsening health outcomes.

The Sale of Liquor Act plays a primary role in reducing alcohol-related harm. Therefore the Ministry of Justice must ensure that the objective of the Act is achieved.

The following recommendations are based on currently available research and input into the Sale of Liquor Forum organised by Alcohol Healthwatch and held on 4 October 2001. The Forum attracted representatives from a broad range of organisations. (A list of participating agencies is attached.)

These recommendations are based on currently available research and from the views expressed at the Alcohol Healthwatch Forum on the Sale of Liquor Act about how the Sale of Liquor Act could be made to work better with regards to youth drinking. The Forum held in October attracted a broad range of organisations. (see appendix)

Recommendations:

 1) That a robust monitoring and evaluation process is put in place to ensure that any future reviews of the Sale of Liquor Act are better informed.

2) That enforcement of the Sale of Liquor Act is strengthened through the following strategies:

 Increased resourcing of Police
 Better monitoring of on and off licences
 Requesting and sighting of ID’s (Development of ID culture)
 Nationally consistent policing and licensing
 Better discussion networks and information sharing (Liquor Licencing, SOL net)
 Develop a national data base of licensed premises and licensees
 Develop a nationally consistent Last Drink Survey
 Work with Territorial Authorities and Local Council to develop alcohol policies and safety plans
 Work with industry on Host Responsibility proposals

 3) That the Sale of Liquor Act and other legislation be amended to enable

Mandatory ID checks for those under 25 years old attempting to purchase alcohol.Require minimum age limit of 18 for supermarket checkout operators sell alcohol and employees in off-licenses /or have separate restricted areas for the sale of alcohol
Instants fines or infringement notices for bar staff who supply minors
Instant fines or infringement notices for ‘on supply’ to minors
Include section in SOL Act to allow controlled purchase operations (ie pseudo-patron operations.)
A change is needed to the Children and Young Persons Act so 16 year olds can be issued with an infringement notices
In Local Government powers to establish alcohol free areas and/or alcohol bans or events, public places beaches etc.
Return the Legal Drinking Age to 20 years of age.

4) That strategies to promote a drinking culture, one that does not feature binge and harmful drinking, in New Zealand be supported by all Ministries and government agencies. Strategies may include:

 The Ministry of Justice to support an inter-sectorial approach to alcohol and health issues
 Support the Ministry of Health in achieving the aims of the National Alcohol Strategy
 Sustained social marketing and mass media campaigns- to target binge drinking culture and promote good health
 Challenge community mindset on responsible drinking
 Raise excise tax on alcohol
 Develop a culture of ‘ID-ing’ for all under 25 years
 Support and develop parental awareness
 Support and develop community action and awareness
 Greater emphasis on and funding for alcohol health promotion
 Focus on high risk groups, young males, Maori etc.
 Restrict Alcohol Advertising
 Increase product information, including health warnings on alcohol containers

1. Introduction

Alcohol Healthwatch is a charitable trust and health promotion agency which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm and encourage healthy and safe drinking practices. Alcohol Healthwatch is funded by the Ministry of Health to provide advocacy and expertise on alcohol-related policy issues.
Alcohol Healthwatch operates both on a regional and national level and has been active participants in the development of alcohol–related legislation including the Sale of Liquor Act, the Land Transport Act and the Local Government Act.

On October 4, 2001 Alcohol Healthwatch held a forum on the Sale of Liquor Act and the impacts of lowering the legal drinking age to 18 years of age. Much of the recommendations in this submission are based on the discussion at the forum. Those attending the forum included Professor Sally Casswell and Dr Peter Jones whose research work is summarised in the report.

2. Background

On December 1 1999, the legal minimum drinking age was lowered to 18 years of age. This change, plus a raft of other measures was the result of the introduction of the Sale of Liquor Amendment Act (1999). Other changes included the requirement for a photographic evidence of age document, and the sale of beer in supermarkets. One aspect of the act that didn’t change was section 4 the object of the Act,

“The object of this Act is to establish a reasonable system of control over the sale and supply of liquor to the public with the aim of contributing to the reduction of liquor abuse, so far as that can be achieved by legislative means.” Sale of Liquor Act (1989)

This objective provides a guiding principle for the sale and supply of alcohol in New Zealand. The question, however, is whether the 1999 changes to the Sale of Liquor Act failed to meet this test.

One of the consequences of these changes in the legislation has been the increased availability of alcohol for young people, in particular for 18 -20 year olds and also for those under 18 years of age. These observations are now supported by recent research!

Since the introduction of the Amendment Act there has been a series of anecdotal reports from the Police and other community organisations about the negative impacts on young people of lowering the drinking age. The lowering of the legal drinking age has appeared to result in the lowering of the de facto drinking age, with increasing reports of 11, 12 and 13 year olds suffering from alcohol poisoning. However, these reports have often been seen in isolation rather than part of a wider social phenomena.
Nevertheless, increasing public concern culminated in the calls by the New Zealand Medical Association and other community groups to raise the legal drinking age back to 20 years and to ensure that the liquor laws were more rigorously enforced.

These concerns resulted in the Minister of Justice calling for a review of the impacts of the lowering of the legal drinking age. The review announced by the Minister was look at the negative consequence for alcohol misuse and its impact on the young with regards to hospital admissions, road accidents assaults, mental illness and other health indicators. Significantly during the process of the review, a major research document has been released by the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit, (APHRU) (Habgood et al, November 2001.) This study highlights a dramatic increase in youth drinking and its negative impact on the health of young people. At the same time as the APHRU report a number of other studies have become available. For example, the Auckland Hospital Emergency Department Study by Jones and Everitt. (Jones, unpublished.) These studies provide a clear guide for the need to improve alcohol policy and legislation.

Alcohol Healthwatch, believes that the Ministry of Justice Review provides an excellent opportunity to improve the health and safety of young New Zealanders. It is the view of the organisation that there are a range of initiative that could be adopted to deal with the issues of youth drinking and youth access to alcohol. In the language of the National Alcohol Strategy these include initiatives based upon ‘demand reduction’ and ‘supply control’. For example a recent forum on the Sale of Liquor Act organised by Alcohol Healthwatch recognised the need for social marketing projects that emphasized a change in the drinking culture.

Other popular suggestions from the forum were increased resource for the Police and Liquor Licensing Inspectors to enforce the current Sale of Liquor Act. There was also the recognize that there was considerable potential to improve the performance of the Act by ‘tweaking’ aspects of the legislation.

However, none of these measures are fiscally neutral. Alcohol Healthwatch believes that unless the government makes a commitment to increasing resources to this issue of youth drinking, the practical option is to restore the legal drinking age from 18 to 20 years of age.

3. Alcohol Available for Consumption

The amount of alcohol available for consumption by volume has increased in the year to September 2001 by 0.3%. Significantly, while the amounts of beer and wine available for consumption deceased there was a significant increase in the amount of spirits and spirit based drinks consumed. The volume of spirit based drinks available for consumption increased by 13.2% in September 2001 compared with the year ending September 2000.(Statistics NZ ,2001)
This reflects the continued demand for ready to drink beverages and fits with the dramatic increase in youth drinking and drinking by women as this category of alcohol is particular popular with young people and women. The total volume of spirits and spirit based drinks made available for consumption rose 10% in the year to the end of September 2001.

3.1 Patterns of Consumption and Alcohol-Related Harm

The manner of consumption rather than the total amount of alcohol consumed is the key concern in reducing alcohol-related harm. Research by APHRU, (Habgood et al, 2001) demonstrates the increase in binge drinking for 18 -20 year olds, 15 -17 year olds and young women. It is the social and health costs of binge drinking, particularly as it impacts on young people that needs to be addressed through good health policy.

The issue of the binge drinking of alcohol is of course especially relevant in considering of the legal minimum drinking. This discussion paper presents a compilation of the research that outlines the nature of this problem.

4. Recent Research

The focus of the Justice Review is on impacts of lowering of the drinking age research in a number of critical areas. While there was general understanding of the problems of youth drinking, there was until recently little relevant information looking at the impacts of the Sale of Liquor Act Amendment No 2 (1999) and lowering of the legal drinking age.

This is now changing with a number of pieces of New Zealand research becoming available. Arguably the most significant these is the seminal study by the APHRU. (Habgood, November 2001.) This study looks at a range of issues including, volume of alcohol consumed in heavier drinking occasions, frequency of drinking, attitudes to alcohol, alcohol-related problems from own drinking, problems from others’ drinking, access to alcohol and age verification by those under minimum purchase age. The information presented relates to a change in youth drinking.

4.1 Drinking in New Zealand, National Survey Comparison 1995 & 2000

As suggested in the title this study was a comparison study of national surveys undertaken in 1995 and 2000. The data for the 2000 study was collected between late August and December 2000, with data collected from 5113 people aged 14-65 years.

The sample was a random selection of people from throughout New Zealand. The response rate was 73%. A comparison has been made with the results from a survey carried out between September and December 1995 using the same questionnaire and methodology.
In summary the survey find a doubling in the consumption of alcohol by 16-17 males, that 18 -20 year old males had become the heaviest drinking age cohort, and that women and young women in particular had significantly increased alcohol consumption. The study also reports that increased problems associated with the consumption of alcohol and minors, 14 -17 year olds most commonly got alcohol from friends as well as from supermarkets and off-licences. The locations which were over-represented in heavier drinking occasions for both men and women were pubs, nightclubs, motor vehicles, outdoor public places, marae and special events.

4.1.1 Alcohol consumption

Although there were no changes in volume consumed among men overall between 1995 and 2000, there were marked increases in the volume of alcohol consumed among males aged 14-15 and even larger increases for males aged 16-17 (from 8 to 20 litres).

The average annual volume consumed by women rose markedly from 5.4 litres in 1995 to 7.3 litres by 2000, an increase from seven to nine glasses per week. There were also increases in volumes consumed by women aged 14-15, 16-17 and women over 25 years.

4.1.2 Alcohol Consumed in Heavier Drinking Occasions

A larger proportion of the total volume of alcohol consumed in 2000 was consumed in heavier drinking occasions (defined as eight or more drinks for men and six or more for women). This had increased from 42% in 1995 to 50% in 2000. The proportion accounted for in heavier drinking occasions by men increased from 47% to 53% and for women from 31% to 42%.

4.1.3 Drinking Frequency

While women drank less often than men but, unlike men, women drinkers increased how often they drank between 1995 and 2000. This was true of women aged 14-15, and 16-17 years and of women aged 30-49. There was also an increase in the frequency of drinking for 14- 17 year olds.

Women increased their typical quantities from just over two drinks per occasion to between three and four drinks in 2000. Men increased their typical quantities from four drinks in 1995 to five in 2000.

The typical quantities consumed by males aged 16-17 increased from about five cans of beer on a drinking occasion in 1995 to eight cans in 2000. The largest typical amounts, equivalent to almost eight and half cans of beer, were consumed by 18-19 year olds. The typical amounts consumed by both these age groups exceeded that of the heaviest drinkers in 1995, 20-24 year olds who had consumed seven drinks per occasion. There was also an increase in typical quantities consumed by males aged 14-15, from three drinks to five drinks.

Women of all ages also showed an increase in the typical quantities consumed and the increases were most marked among those aged 16-17, 18-19 and 20-24 years. Those aged 16-17 consumed just under six drinks per occasion in 2000, an increase of just under two drinks since 1995.

4.1.4 Frequency of Drinking Enough to Feel Drunk

Thirteen percent of men and 6% of women reported drinking enough to feel drunk at least once a week. About one in three men and one in four women aged 18–19 did so at least weekly. There was an increase in the proportion of 16-17 year olds who reported consuming enough to get drunk at least once a week (from 10% to 17%) and also in the proportion of women drinkers who did so (from 4% to 6%).

Over a third of men’s alcohol consumption and a quarter of women’s took place on licensed premises (pubs/hotels/taverns/bars, nightclubs, sports clubs, other clubs or restaurants/cafés). The locations which were over-represented in heavier drinking occasions for both men and women were pubs, nightclubs, motor vehicles, outdoor public places, marae and special events.

4.1.5 Attitudes to Alcohol

Most drinkers found takeaway alcohol easy to obtain and there was an increase in the numbers who felt that it was easy to buy at times when they wanted it. There was also marked decrease in those who felt alcohol was expensive and a decrease in those who had to be careful about their spending on alcohol in 2000. A more liberal attitude towards alcohol consumption was also apparent in the increasing tolerance towards getting drunk now and again, particularly among women and among males aged 14-15.

4.1.6 Alcohol-Related Problems from Own Drinking

There was an increase in the experience of one or more problems for women and a decrease for men. Women experiencing at least five the specified range of fifteen problems in the past twelve months increased from 5% to 7% but there was a decrease among men (from 13% to 11%). Younger people were more likely to report these problems; about one third of men in the 16-24 year old age groups and between 20% and 30% of women in the same age groups reported experiencing at least five problems in the past year. There was a marked increase in the proportion of 16-17 year old women experiencing five or more problems, from 14% in 1995 to 30% in 2000 and seven or more problems, from 2% in 1995 to 13% in 2000.

4.1.7 Problems from Others’ Drinking

Younger men and women were more likely to have experienced both physical assault (one in five men under 30 in the past twelve months) and sexual harassment (one in five women under 30 in the past twelve months) by someone who had been drinking.

4.1 .8 Access to Alcohol and Age Verification by those Under Minimum Purchase Age On-Licensed Premises

Age identification was requested for 18-19 year olds about half as often as they had consumed alcohol in a pub (0.46) and most often (0.57) in night clubs. The ratio of age identification requests to drinking occasions was about one to five in sports clubs and less than one to seven at sports events, special events and in restaurants, cafés and coffee shops.

About one in four drinkers aged 16-17 had consumed alcohol in pubs, sports events and sports clubs, more than one in three at restaurants, cafés or coffee shops and more than half at special events (such as festivals, music events or dance parties). The most popular locations for the youngest drinkers, aged 14-15, were at special events, restaurants and cafés and sports events. There were few refusals in these venues.

4.1.9 Off-licensed premises

There were fewer requests for identification as a proportion of successful takeaway purchases were experienced by 16-17 year old drinkers than by 18-19 year olds. The most common sources of alcohol purchased for drinkers aged under 18 were friends (58%) and parents (46%). Over two thirds of 16-17 year olds, and 45% of 14-15 year old drinkers had obtained alcohol from friends in the previous 12 months. Half of 16-17 year olds, and 39% of 14-15 year old drinkers had consumed alcohol supplied by parents. Friends were the most frequent supplier for 16-17 year old drinkers (52%) and 35% received alcohol most often from parents. Friends (46%) and parents (41%) were also the ones bought alcohol most often for 14-15 year olds.

4.2 Don’t nag me! Young peoples perceptions

Research undertaken by the Injury Prevention Research Centre (Bennett et al, 2000) provides an indication of the role alcohol plays in young peoples lives in contempory New Zealand. The study is an investigation of young peoples perceptions of risk taking behaviour, with particular focus on underage alcohol use.

Research indicated that participants percieved alcohol consumption as a core part of life in New Zealand.

“Binge-drinking of alcohol was constructed as a core part of general alcohol consumption, and was also framed as an inevitable part of adolescent development.” (Bennett et al , 2000)

Young people acknowledge that the lowering of the legal alcohol drinking age would enable them to have increased access to alcohol. It was consider by young people that that lowering the drinking age would also remove the “the forbidden aspect of alcohol.”

An indication of the content of the research is outlined in the following comments

“In the first instant, excess underage alcohol consumptiion was contrusted as unequivocally postive:
Stephen:it’s like the cool thing to do, like get you know pissed(males and females 16-17 years)
Tania:It’s cooler to get drunk
Interviewer:Wow so f you go out and have a you know a couple of wines at a party or a couple of beers and you don’t make a fool of your self.
Tania:That’s not cool
Anna:People aren’t really going to remember it
Tania:If you get drunk and you know have like drawn attention to yourself people will think that’s cool.”(page 45)

This research shows how deeply entrench alcohol misuse is the lives of young people. Unfortunately, changing the drinking age hasn’t had the effect of demystifing perceptions surrounding the use of alcohol. It has simply made it more available by lowering the de facto drinking age.

The Habgood’s research clearly outlines that the lowering the drinking age has resulted in an increase in binge drinking and associated alcohol–related problems. This is further supported by the research information put forward in this document.

4 .3 New Zealand Health Survey

The Ministry of Health has released figures from the 1996/97 New Zealand Health Survey (Ministry of Health, 1999). Part of this survey include the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) questionnaire. This was developed by the World Health Organisation as a screening instrument to identify people at risk of developing alcohol problems. An AUDIT score of eight or more indicates a risk of physical or mental negative effects from alcohol.

The information indicated: 17% of adults had an audit score of eight or more. People aged between 15 and 24 especially men were more likely to fall into this group. Maori and Pacific peoples were most likely to report hazardous patterns of drinking and were more likely to drink five or more drinks on a typical drinking occasion.

People on lower incomes, with lower education levels and living in the most deprived areas were least likely to report drinking any alcohol in the previous year. However those that did drink were most likely to report a hazardous drinking pattern.

4.4 CARG Access to On-Licences by 18 year olds

A recent survey by CARG ( Community Action for Responsible Gambling, 2001) of a 1,214 pupils from eight Canterbury secondary schools.

For the male respondents to the survey males both over and under 16 years of age categories, 63% gambled on gaming machines in pubs, bars sports clubs, restaurants, pool rooms and other venues. Although much lower at 45% for females, this figure is also the same for respondents both and under 16 years of age.

These statistics are of concern. Department of Internal Affairs has deliberately linked as part of its official policy the siting of gaming machines to restricted areas under the Sale of Liquor Act, so there would be an 18 year old age limit on those using the machines.

It is clear that if such a significant proportion of young can have access to license premises to gamble it is likely they will also have access to licensed premises for other reasons.

4.5 Increased Alcohol-Related Youth Admissions to Hospital Emergency Departments

The lowering to the drinking age has seen the dramatic increase in the numbers of young people admitted to Emergency Departments throughout New Zealand. Recent research such as the Auckland Emergency Department study gives empirical support and analysis to a raft of anecdotal evidence, the study entitled ‘Changing the minimum legal drinking age– its effects on a Central City Emergency Department’ by Auckland Emergency Medicine specialists Peter Jones and Rob Everett. (Jones et al, 2001) is extremely concerning.

The aim of the study to examine the difference in the number of intoxicated people presenting to the Emergency Department of Auckland Hospital in the 12 months after the change in the legal drinking age law in December 1st 1999, compared to the 12 months prior to the law change.

The Everitt and Jones study found for the 18-19 year old age group there was a 52% increase in the numbers of people presenting with blood alcohol levels greater than the legal driving limit in the year after the law change compared to the year before.

There was a similar trend in the 15–18 year old age which reported a 34% increase in presentations in which alcohol was contributing factor. There was no change in the over 19 year age group. As the Auckland Emergency Department only sees people over the age of 15, it has no data on children presenting intoxicated. The researchers believe the data underestimates the true incidence of alcohol-related presentations, as measurement of blood alcohol is not a very good way to detect whether someone coming to ED is there as a result of drinking. For example, they may present after the alcohol is worn off but have an injury sustained while drunk. Also staff do not always test for blood alcohol levels even when patients are thought to be intoxicated. Also, because of the relative frequency of alcohol-related presentations to ED, staff may become ambivalent to it and not even note down that alcohol was a contributing factor.

4.5.1 Percentage of Emergency Department Alcohol-Related Injury

Another recent study at Auckland Hospital has found that 35% of adult injury presentations to Auckland Emergency Department are alcohol related (Humphrey G, et al unpublished).

4.5.2 Christchurch Hospital Emergency - Dramatic increase in alcohol-related youth admissions

The Everitt and Jones study at Auckland Emergency Department is further supported by information coming out of other Emergency Departments in New Zealand. Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department specialist Dr Rob Ojala estimates that admissions for heavily intoxicated 13 – 17 year olds had risen by 68% in the last year. (Christchurch Press, 5 November, 2001.)

“The majority of people who come here would be grossly intoxicated. We are getting people in who have got half-way through a bottle of spirits in the middle of the day at school, and are coming here in a comatose state sadly that is not uncommon”, states Dr Ojala.

4.5.3 Scarcity of Information

Alcohol Healthwatch is concerned that considerable information pertaining to alcohol-related hospital admissions remains uncollected. For example, all children in Auckland under the age of 15 suffering alcohol-related poisonings are admitted to Auckland’s Starship Children’s Hospital. These alcohol poisons are suppose to be notified to public health officials. It is estimated that there are two under 15 alcohol poisonings presentation every week at Starship hosiptal but that few make the poisoning record. It is important that this data is collected and available for policy development. (Personal communication.)

4.6 Youth Crime and Crimes Of Violence - Changes Since the Lowering of the Drinking Age

There has been a significant increase in numbers of under 17 year olds offending. In the year to June 2001 there was 46,258 under 17 olds apprehended. This compares with 2000 where there were 44, 941 under 17 young apprehended and 1999 when there were 42,495 apprehended. (NZ Herald, October 17, 2001)

Apprehension : under 17s
For violence
1997-98 ... 4,262
1999-00 ... 4,391
2000-01 ... 4,829

Total convictions :
1998-99 ... 42,494
1999-00 ... 44,941
2000-01 ... 46,258

There is increasing evidence that alcohol is a major contributor to injury through interpersonal violence, especially assaults, violence against partners, and child abuse. Victims can also be more vulnerable to such violence if they are intoxicated themselves. (Ministry of Health, National Alcohol Strategy 2000-2003.) For example estimates suggest alcohol contributes between 25% to 50 % of physical assaults against spouses (Department of Justice, 1987).

For young New Zealand males the problem of alcohol and violence is even more extreme. In one 12 month period almost a quarter of all males aged between 16 –24 years of age reported that they had been assaulted in an alcohol-related incident. (Wyllie et al 1996)

4.6.1 Crime in New Zealand

According to, Crime in New Zealand, (Statistics New Zealand, 2001), Drug and anti-social offences were the second largest crime category in 2000, comprising 12 percent of all offences, with disorderly behaviour counting for 41% of offences in this crime category. Within this category disorderly and family offence (which includes domestic violence) have both risen since 1994.

As for violent crime serious assaults, minor assaults and intimidation or threats together account for about 88 percent of all violent crime. There was little change in the offence rates for all classes of violent crime between 1994 and 2000. The largest overall change occurred in the serious assaults class of offence. The rate of this class increased from 3.5 offences per 1,000 population in 1998 before increasing to 3.7 offences per 1,000 population in 2000. Offences relating to the sale of liquor were influenced by a December 1999 Amendment to the Sale of Liquor Act so that sale of liquor offences relating to minors became infringements and were no longer recorded as offences.

There is now significant body of research relating alcohol availability, through measures such lowering of the drinking age and increasing the density of alcohol outlets to increased violence and criminal behaviour. For example research by Robert Parker of the Prevention Research Centre in Berkeley, California examine violence in 256 American cities found that found that eliminating the glut of inner city alcohol outlets could cut the American homicide rate by 10% and save 2, 000 lives annually. (Parker, 2001.).

4.7 Road Accidents and Youth Drinking

In 1999 a number of significant measures were introduced to improve alcohol related road safety. This included the introduction of mandatory carriage of photo graphic ID, automatic suspension of licence and impounding of cars for disqualified drivers. Overall, largely as a result of these changes there has been a 34% reduction in the number of disqualified driving offences from the year before the regime came into effects to the second year of new regime. (Land Transport Safety Authority, 2001.)

As part of the different alcohol limits, the Police need to know the driver’s age in order to reset the breath screening device for the youth limits if the driver was under was under twenty years of age. The introduction of the mandatory carriage of a photographic licence has enabled this to happen far more effectively.

4.7.1 Lowering of Drinking Age And The Impact 15 -19 year old Alcohol Affected Drivers Involved Crashes

There has been a general downward trend over the last decade that is probably due to a range of interventions. With the numbers of 15-19 year old alcohol affected drivers in fatal crashes are quite small any effect may be difficult to detect. The lowering of the drinking age could have increased crash involvement of 15-19 year olds, however, it is likely that this has been countered by the other road safety initiative. As yet there is no real evidence of any change in trend since the introduction of the lowering of the minimum drinking age. (Land Transport Safety Authority, 2001.)

5. Positive Aspects Sale of Liquor Amendment Act No 3 (1999)

Clarity

The Alcohol Healthwatch acknowledges there were a number of positive attributes to the 1999 Amendment. The changes brought about greater clarity in the legislation particularly in regard to the minimum legal drinking age, where there had been a number of different legal riders covering the law.

Evidence of Age Document

The introduction of a photographic evidence of age document as part of defence for selling alcohol to minors was seen as a positive move. There are four recognise types of evidence of age documents. However to be effective this must be requested.

Infringement Notices

The ability for the Police to issue infringement notices for minors. Infringement notices were seen as giving the Police more flexibility in dealing with young drinkers, although the potential for the use of infringement notices is still fairly limited and is not practical for under 16 years.

Conditions on a license

The Sale of Liquor Act Amendment Act No 2 also allowed for the further development of Host Responsibility practices through allowing LLA’s and DLA’s to include a wider range of conditions on a licences, including the sale and supply of low–alcohol beverages, assistance with information about alternative forms of transport and any other matters aimed at promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol.

6. Solutions To Youth Drinking Problems And Making The Sale Liquor Act Work Better!

Changes to the Sale of Liquor Act Amendment No 2 (1999) indicates how legislation and policy can influence outcomes. There is a general view Alcohol Healthwatch, Sale of Liquor Forum that the Act itself can be improved and that existing legislation needs to be better enforced. There is also the wider concern that the culture around the use of alcohol in New Zealand and in particular binge culture has in fact worsened. Many of the recommendation in this document arose from Alcohol Healthwatch Sale of Liquor Forum held on October 4, 2001.

6.1 Supply controls

The National Alcohol Strategy supply control objectives include, ensuring that the provision of the SOL Act are well understood and ensuring the provisions of the Sale of Liquor Act are effectively and consistently enforced. Alcohol Healthwatch supports these general objectives. It is however, important that there is the political will, and commitment to make these initiatives happen.

The Alcohol Healthwatch forum suggested the following policy change that would ensure that the Sale of Liquor Act would work better:

Better resourcing of the Police to enforce the Sale of Liquor Act. It is important that the SOL Act is enforced properly and that off-licences, supermarkets and on-licences are properly monitored.
Better discussion networks (SOL net) Need for information sharing.
National consistency of policing and liquor licensing.
Requesting and sighting of ID (Development of an ID culture).
Develop a national data base of licensed premises and licensees.
Develop a nationally consistent Last Drink Survey Programme to broaden the base of the Programme, to provide a systemic approach to identifying poorly performing premises, to implement targeted prevention strategies and to provide a data base.
Better sharing of research, data and evaluations.

While some of these changes are relatively minor others such as the better resourcing of Police are of major significance. Alcohol Healthwatch suggest that a “performance system” be developed for liquor licensing similar for that for alcohol road safety where a certain number of outcome are purchased every year.

Recommendations

Better resourcing of the Police.
Better discussion networks (SOL net).
National consistency of policing and liquor licensing.
Requesting and sighting of ID (Development of ID culture).
Develop a national data base of licensed premises and licensees.
Develop a nationally consistent Last Drink Survey.
Work with Territorial Authorities and Local Council to develop alcohol policy and safety plans.
Work with industry on Host Responsibility proposals.

6.2 Changes to Sale of Liquor Act (1989)

Alcohol Healthwatch also believes that that there are specific changes required to the Sale of Liquor Act. These changes would successful address some of the problems associated with the legislative framework and would allow the police and those working in the industry to do their job better.

Recommendations

1) Mandatory ID checks for under 25 year olds

Include

Section 2 (B) Those persons responsible for sale and supply of alcohol are required to ask for and sight an evidence of age document for patron they can reasonable expect to under the age of 25.

Retain Section 155 (4) and (4A)

It is a defence to a charge under subsection (1) or subsection (2) of this section if the defendant proves that the person who sold or supplied the liquor believed on reasonable grounds (evidence of age document) that the person whose age is material to the offence.

2) Require minimum age limit of 18 for supermarket checkout operators and employees in off-licenses /or have separate restricted areas for the sale of alcohol.

Delete

Section 161 Employment of Minors, subsection 3 (v) Checking or removing cash
Section 163 Minors In Restricted Areas, subsection 3(a) (iv) Checking and removing cash

3) Instants fines or infringement notices for bar staff who supply minors

Change Section 155 sale and Supply to Minors Sub section (2A) (c)
In the case of a person (not being a manager) a infringement notice for $ 500

4) Instant fines or infringement notices for ‘on supply’ to minors

Include in section 155 (2A)(c) that infrinngement notices, not exceeding $500, can be given out by the police for the ‘on supply’ of alcohol to minors. 

5) District Licencing Inspector Given Power Write Infringement Notices

Licensing Inspector should be give powers to write infringement notices on certain breaches of the Sale of Liquor Act vis-à-vis serving of intoxicated patrons and the serving of minors.

6) Include section to allow controlled purchase operation

The Smokefee Amendment Act allows for controlled purchase operation to be undertaken. The ability to carry out controlled purchase operations needs to be included into the Sale of Liquor Act.

7) A change is needed to the Children and Young Persons Act so 16 year olds can be issued with an infringement notice

8) In Local Government powers to establish alcohol free areas and/or alcohol bans for events, public places beaches etc.

The Local Government Act is current under a review. Various councils and other groups made submissions on this issues. At present the submissions are being drafted in to a bill and will then under go the select committee process.

Councils need to be key players in establishing inter-sectorial groups that would include councils, local communities, iwi, health groups and others. The opportunities exist for council to be involved in setting up alternative actives such as Zeal in Wellington.

6.3 Demand reduction

This fits in with approach take by the National Alcohol Strategy which looks at both demand reductions strategies and supply control strategies. The National Alcohol Strategy outlines greater information about the effects alcohol with increased knowledge about the risk factors associated with alcohol, Provide consumers with accurate and clear information on alcoholic drinking containers, including health warnings and make moderate use (including low alcohol use and non – and attractive options.

Alcohol Healthwatch supports these general initiative but considers there needs to be a more direct challenge to the New Zealand’s drinking culture through active social marketing programmes and greater support for parents and communities.

The Alcohol Healthwatch Sale of Liquor Act Forum suggested:
Sustained social marketing and mass media campaigns-to target the binge drinking culture and promote good health. That there is a need to develop community awareness programme around youth drinking, that are on going and well funded. The opportunity exists to develop a branded programme similar to the ‘Smokefree ‘programme.
Challenge community mindset on responsible drinking
Develop a culture of ID for all under 25 years
Support and develop parental awareness
This would include providing information for parents about the law and the effects of alcohol. The development of a ‘parent pack’ by the Ministry of Justice. Also provide guideline agreements” for parents and children
Support and develop community action. There needs to be more community ownership and Local Body involvement. Changes to the Local Government Act will encourage council to be involved in a wider range of community action. These amendments need to be supported by the Ministry of Justice and Local Authorities need to be encourage to become involved in these areas community.
Support and develop community awareness
Greater emphasis on and funding for alcohol health promotion.
Focus on high risk groups, young males, Maori etc.
Empowering at risk groups, assist at risk groups in developing communication strategies and positive messages. The Ministry of Justice need to develop focused intervention on recidivist drink drivers.
Restrict Alcohol Advertising. Alcohol advertising is the main source of alcohol education for young New Zealanders. The impact of alcohol advertising is highlighted by the dramatic increase in alcohol consumption by young people and women outline in the APHRU report, (Casswell, 2001) . These population groups have been targeted in advertising by the alcohol industry.
Increase product information including health warnings on alcohol containers

These initiative are imperative if New Zealand is to tackle the problems associated with youth drinking. However, they are not fiscally neutral.

Recommendations

The Ministry of Justice to support an inter-sectorial approach to alcohol and health issues
Support the Ministry of Health in achieving the aims of the National Alcohol Strategy
Sustained social marketing and mass media campaigns- to target binge drinking culture and promote good health
Challenge community mindset on responsible drinking
Develop a culture of ID for all under 25 years
Support and develop parental awareness of the drinking laws
Support and develop community action and awareness
Greater emphasis on and funding for alcohol health promotion
Focus on high risk groups, young males, Maori etc
Restrict Alcohol Advertising
Increase product information including health warnings on alcohol containers.

6.4 Returning the Drinking Age to 20 years of age

It is Alcohol Healthwatch’s view that unless a substantial portion of the series of recommendations can be put into place, including an extensive social marketing campaign, greater resources for the Police, stronger community involvement and changes to the existing SOL Act, then the Minister should consider raising the legal drinking age to 20 years of age.

Legislation

Sale of Liquor Act (1989)
Sale of Liquor Amendment Act (No 2) (1999)
Local Government Act (1976)

Bibliography

Bennett S, Coggan C, “Don’t nag me”, Young people’s perceptions of risk taking and alcohol consumption. Injury Prevention Research Centre, Auckland, June 2000.

CARG, Gambling Prevalence Survey of Secondary School Pupils, Christchurch November 2001.

Christchurch Press, November 5, 2001
Crime in New Zealand, Statistics New Zealand, 2001

Habgood R, Casswell S, Pledger M, Bhatta K, Drinking in New Zealand, National Survey Comparison 1995 & 2000, Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, University of Auckland November 2001.

Jones P and Everitt R, ‘Changing the minimum legal drinking age – its effects on a central City emergency Department’, unpublished.

New Zealand Herald, October 17, 2001

Ministry of Health 1999, Taking the Pulse: The 1996/97 New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health, Wellington.

Ministry of Health, National Alcohol Strategy 2000-2003, Wellington, 2001.

Parker R.N and Rebhun, Alcohol and Homicide: A Deadly Combination of Two American Traditions, State University Press New York.

Statistics New Zealand, Crime in New Zealand, 2001.

Wyllie A et al. 1996. Drinking in New Zealand: A national Survey 1995. Auckland: Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit.

Appendix 1

ALCOHOL HEALTHWATCH SOL FORUM ATTENDANCE

ACC Injury Prevention Division
ALAC
APHRU
Auckland City Council
Auckland District Health Board
Auckland Hospital
Bay Of Plenty District Health
Weltec
Clubs NZ
Community Health
Franklin District Council
GALA
LTSA
Manukau City Council
Matamata District Council
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Police
National College of Security
Nga Ture Kaitiaki Ki Waikato
NZAAHD
NZ Drug Foundation
NZ Police
NZ Police - Counties/Manuaku
NZ Police -Waitakere
NZ Police -Whangarei
Otara Alcohol Group
Radio NZ
Safer Auckland City
Salvation Army Bridge Programme
TADS
Tairawhiti District Health
Waikato District Health
Waitakere City Council
Womens Christian Temp Union