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Raise the drinking age

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, July 1st, 2010 - 103 comments
Categories: drugs, health, john key - Tags: , ,

I was neutral in the debate on lowering the drinking age back in 1999. There were arguments on both sides. Some European countries manage a mature, responsible and family based attitude to alcohol that is much more healthy than a heavy handed regulatory framework. It would have been nice if NZ could have got there.

Ten years later it’s time to admit that we didn’t. As a culture we failed, and alcohol related problems have skyrocketed:

The figures […] show alcohol-related death rates have skyrocketed due to what experts describe as a binge-drinking culture entrenched in Kiwi youth. Coroners have noted alcohol as a feature of the deaths of 1100 Kiwis over the past decade.

Numbers across the country have risen from 41 in 2000 to 254 in 2008. In 2009, the figure sits at 137, but is incomplete as some inquests are still open.

Last month, Chief Coroner Neil MacLean released statistics showing 12 teenagers had died from binge-drinking since July 1, 2007. The issue was highlighted after the death of Auckland schoolboy James Webster, who died in his sleep last month after drinking straight vodka. …

National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman said the figures were “very concerning”. The rising death rate correlated with increased heavy drinking among Kiwi youth after the lowering of the buying age in 1999.

Depending on how you define “alcohol related” death, some estimates are much higher, up to more than 1000 per year. Hundreds of medical professionals have called for the drinking age to be raised. The Law Commission has published a detailed report (“Alcohol in our lives:
Curbing the harm”) also calling for the age to be raised to 20. Other comments are here. And a range of “Prominent Kiwis” have joined the calls for drinking culture reform:

Two former governors-general are among a group of prominent Kiwis calling on politicians to shake up New Zealand’s alcohol laws. Led by former governor-general Sir Paul Reeves, the group will present a six-point statement at Parliament tomorrow, as the Government considers its response to a Law Commission report on alcohol issued earlier this year. …

Sir Paul said the group would urge the Government “to make the most of the current once-in-a generation-opportunity to find better solutions to our alcohol crisis”. The Law Commission’s review of alcohol legislation was a unique opportunity to change New Zealand’s drinking culture, he said.

“Positive new alcohol legislation needs to be introduced with urgency to deal with an increasingly out-of- control situation of heavy drinking in New Zealand.” The report recommended increasing the tax on alcohol, restricted advertising, raising the drinking age and lowering the legal blood alcohol limit.

Commission president Geoffrey Palmer has urged Parliament to enact the whole package of recommendations “rather than cherry picking the more politically palatable elements”. However, Prime Minister John Key has already ruled out an increase in alcohol tax and claimed the public was not in the mood for wholesale change.

I think the PM is wrong. The case for substantial change seems to be open and shut, and I think that the country (always excepting the “Talkback Taliban” of Kiwiblog and the likes) would accept it. Raise the drinking age, and enact the other measures needed to make it effective. Come on Key, show some leadership.

103 comments on “Raise the drinking age ”

  1. American Gardener 1

    Agreed – if the change hasn’t worked then it is time to try something different. Love your expression “Talkback Taliban” to describe the small group of right wing wing nuts lead by Redbaiter.

    • r0b 1.1

      Not my expression – but yes it is captures the essence perfectly.

    • jcuknz 1.2

      Probition didn’t work in the States and shades of it will not work here. The law review is a simple kneejerk non-solution by people who will not face the real problem … teaching moderation to a country that has gone wild … at least some sections of it.

  2. deemac 2

    there is no one simple solution, certainly not stopping adults (ie 18 year olds) from buying alcohol. Much better to deal with the actual problems (cheap RTDs, public drunkenness, bars serving intoxicated people etc) but that will be more complicated. Politicians (and police) like simple solutions but these rarely work, just make it look like you are “doing someting”.

    • r0b 2.1

      there is no one simple solution, certainly not stopping adults (ie 18 year olds) from buying alcohol.

      Sorry, call me old and grumpy, but there is no way an 18yo is an adult. (Some of them are remarkable young people to be sure, but not adults).

      The problem with your argument is the way alcohol related problems have shot up so quickly since 1999 when we allowed 18yos to buy alcohol. It looks like causation (in principle it could still be a coincidence, but does anyone really believe that?).

      Hence raising the age again seems to me like a sensible thing to try. Do it, give that 10 years, then see where we are.

      • Lew 2.1.1

        “Sorry, call me old and grumpy, but there is no way an 18yo is an adult. (Some of them are remarkable young people to be sure, but not adults).”

        Should their rights to marry, start families, vote, serve in the military and other such professions (all the usual examples with which I’m sure you’re familiar) be removed on the same grounds?

        I think not. I think granting marginally generous responsibility to the less-responsible youths in our society is a reasonable price to pay for not patronising and infantilising those who are more responsible.

        L

        • Quoth the Raven 2.1.1.1

          Lew – As an interesting aside I found this interesting The Case Against Adolescence

          Dumas and I worked out what makes an adult an adult. We came up with 14 areas of competency—such as interpersonal skills, handling responsibility, leadership—and administered tests to adults and teens in several cities around the country. We found that teens were as competent or nearly as competent as adults in all 14 areas. But when adults estimate how teens will score, their estimates are dramatically below what the teens actually score.

          Other long-standing data show that teens are at least as competent as adults. IQ is a quotient that indicates where you stand relative to other people your age; that stays stable. But raw scores of intelligence peak around age 14-15 and shrink thereafter. Scores on virtually all tests of memory peak between ages 13 and 15. Perceptual abilities all peak at that age. Brain size peaks at 14. Incidental memory—what you remember by accident, and not due to mnemonics—is remarkably good in early to mid teens and practically nonexistent by the ’50s and ’60s.

        • r0b 2.1.1.2

          Should their rights to marry, start families, vote, serve in the military and other such professions (all the usual examples with which I’m sure you’re familiar) be removed on the same grounds?

          Argue any of these case by case on whatever grounds you want, the rights and responsibilities of near adults is a legitimate area of debate. But the argument that an 18yo is an adult is incorrect, it shouldn’t be used as a justification for anything.

          For the record, I would certainly argue that 18yos should not be eligible to serve in the military.

          • Lew 2.1.1.2.1

            R0b, this looks like a No True Scotsman to me.

            Adulthood is socially-determined. At present, our society generally deems adulthood to occur at about 18ish, give or take. This is signified in legislation (voting, alcohol purchase age; age of complete sexual and familial majority, right to contract, etc.) and in culture (age at which is generally considered “acceptable” or “usual” to undertake certain activities not prohibited by law — such as play in an adult sports team, attend university. There are other cases where it’s lower (criminal responsibility at 14, partial sexual majority at 16; driving age of 16; arms license applicability at 16) and very few where it’s higher (ceremonial transition to adulthood at 21).

            In law and in social norms, at 18 a person is generally considered an adult. So by what definition are they not one?

            The problem with arguing the principle that 18 is not an adult is that it doesn’t just imply a legislative responsibility to prohibit alcohol purchase or consumption — it implies a responsibility to change (or consider changing) all these other rights as well, for consistency’s sake. Try selling a driving, sexual majority, arms ownership and age of contract rights of 20 and see how far you get. And then see what sort of society we have.

            Much better to simply argue the pragmatic case that teenagers have proven themselves too irresponsible for this specific set of rights. I’d still disagree, but you’re on stronger ground.

            L

            • r0b 2.1.1.2.1.1

              R0b, this looks like a No True Scotsman to me.

              Heh – possibly!

              Adulthood is socially-determined

              That’s the definition that counts in the end, and I accept that I am in the minority in arguing that society has it wrong. I think we have “the age of adulthood” wrong for three reasons:

              (1) The age was set when we knew a lot less about the brain and its rate of maturation than we know now.

              (2) Society has historically had a built in pressure to push the age as low as possible – more soldiers, more workers, more breeders.

              (3) Society has not adapted the age to keep pace with changes in society. The world today is a very different place to the world of a child growing up 50 years ago.

              For these reasons (and on the basis of some non trivial personal experience!) I believe that that the socially accepted definition of the age of adulthood is too low.

              for consistency’s sake

              Case by case – why an obsession with consistency when the cases are so obviously different?

              • Lew

                Case by case why an obsession with consistency when the cases are so obviously different?

                Bundle of sticks. They all rely on the same conditional: “is/is not an adult”. But how we determine adulthood is by assessing the different rights/responsibilities making up “adulthood”, and they largely draw strength from each other.

                You say* “18 year olds can’t handle their booze, therefore they are not adults”, and my retort that 18 year-olds can marry because they can also fight in wars, drive, vote, drink, etc. So by undermining one of those criteria you undermine the overall picture of adulthood. They can’t stand apart.

                L

                * actually, you don’t, but bear with me.

                • r0b

                  * actually, you don’t, but bear with me.

                  By all means.

                  Bundle of sticks. They all rely on the same conditional: “is/is not an adult’.

                  Why a bundle? It’s bad enough that one size (age) has to fit all individuals (who vary greatly). Why make it worse by insisting that it also has to fit all situations? Why must we insist that getting married, voting, buying alcohol, driving, and joining the army all have the same set magical age? We didn’t used to – we used to have a drinking age of 20, just for example. So why can’t we put it back?

                  You say* “18 year olds can’t handle their booze, therefore they are not adults’,

                  Not quite – but carry on:

                  and my retort that 18 year-olds can marry because they can also fight in wars, drive, vote, drink, etc. So by undermining one of those criteria you undermine the overall picture of adulthood. They can’t stand apart.

                  What “overall picture of adulthood”? I think you’re insisting on some strange binary classification that doesn’t and shouldn’t exist. Life is a progression of milestones and achievements, from well before adolescence until (we hope) the day we die. Why try and draw a sharp line at a set age and call everyone to the right of the line an “adult”? Why not case by case for the different issues?

                  If you aren’t convinced by the argument, be convinced by the facts. The drinking age used to be 20, apparently the lack of consistency did not cause society to fall apart. We can put it back if we want to. And it could save hundreds of lives a year.

                  A pleasure chatting, but work calls, I shan’t be back until tonight.

                  • Lew

                    Because they are all rated against the same test: adulthood. Justification as to why someone can/can’t do any certain thing is “they are/are not an adult”. The basis for lowering the drinking age was largely that 18 year-olds can do other “adult” things, so they shouild be able to do this one as well. It was to correct an inconsistency. To re-raise it to 20 requires you to make a case as to why it should be different from other “adult” activities, such as: being able to marry; enter into a contract; participate in pornography; and most crucially of all, vote and stand for office.

                    If your argument is that 18 year-olds are not responsible enough to drink, then it must surely follow that they are not responsible enough to do any of those things, particularly the last three. So you either contradict yourself by arguing they don’t require as much responsibility (I hope you’d agree that arguing that voting requires less responsibility than having a beer after work is plainly idiotic), or you find yourself arguing for an increase in the age at which all those activities are or ought to be permisible. Which is infantilising and patronising.

                    If you want to make an argument on the basis of harm reduction, then as I’ve said, you’re on stronger grounds. But I would say that such an argument speaks more in the favour of mitigation strategies than outright prohibition.

                    There are lots of things we could do to “save hundreds of lives a year”, such as cut the speed limit to 50kph, and 30 in town; or mandating that everyone’s TVs be operated by exercycle. But I don’t care as much about the policy outcome as I do about the consistency of the principles enacted — or more to the point, I have faith in the policy process to come up with an adequate policy solution if properly-principled actions are taken.

                    The argument of principle regarding adulthood is a dead end, and in my view just a manifestation of the creeping abolitionist conservatism of advancing age. In other words: yeah, maybe you are just old and grumpy.

                    L

                    • r0b

                      Because they are all rated against the same test: adulthood. Justification as to why someone can/can’t do any certain thing is “they are/are not an adult’.

                      Oh bollocks. They’re all rated against the same test: does society agree that the person meets the requirements to have that right. At one end of the spectrum it’s pure qualification – you don’t get to be a doctor when you pass a magic age, you have to get the degree. In the middle it’s a mix of age and qualification – a driver’s licence when you’re old enough and can pass the test. At the other end of the spectrum it’s pure age – you can vote if you’re old enough. This universal test of “adulthood” that you hold so dear is an illusion of your own making. You even say so yourself later on:

                      The argument of principle regarding adulthood is a dead end

                      So make up your mind!

                      If your argument is that 18 year-olds are not responsible enough to drink, then it must surely follow that they are not responsible enough to do any of those things,

                      Why must it surely follow? Why are you trying to cram the world in to a one size fits all straight jacket? I’m truly surprised at your apparent tunnel vision on this matter. Drinking is different because it kills people. (Yeah soldiers do that too, but that’s another debate).

                      There are lots of things we could do to “save hundreds of lives a year’,

                      There’s a lot more to it than that. The law commission report linked in the OP, please go and read Chapters 3 and 4.

                      just a manifestation of the creeping abolitionist conservatism of advancing age. In other words: yeah, maybe you are just old and grumpy.

                      I’m surprised to find that a hip young liberal like yourself is a closet old-ageist Lew. Careful, or I’ll round up my local chapter of grey power and we’ll come on over to your place and beat you up with our zimmer frames.

                    • Lew

                      I’m not arguing that there is a universal test for adulthood — I’m arguing that the various responsibilities are graded against each other. That’s not a very radical position.

                      If you’d like to argue that drinking requires less responsibility (or has worse consequences if exercised irresponsibly) than voting, driving or parenthood — or that all these can consistently be graded against their own independent, objective standards — then by all means, do so. I haven’t seen anyone do it convincingly.

                      For my part, r0b, (not knowing your age, even to the decade) I’m surprised that you’re taking such an aged-curmudgeon get-off-my-lawn-you-damn-kids position. It seems out of character for you.

                      L

                    • r0b

                      And there perhaps the matter rests. But do please read those chapters.

        • lprent 2.1.1.3

          I’d have to agree with Lew.

          When I was 18 in 1977, I’d had a potentially lethal car license from a few weeks after my 15th birthday, and owned a car when I was 17. I’d giving up my high paying relatively night shift factory job that I’d done while in the 5th, 6th, and 7th form and spent a year milking cows, birthing sheep, crutching and trying to keep the bloody stupid sheep alive. I’d helped destroy and build several buildings. I’d joined the territorials, done my training both as a soldier and as a medic, and was authorized to shoot people when ordered. I’d already spent a considerable amount of time on the range improving my shooting with my own legal weapons.

          In 1978 when I was still 18, I went to university and started working as a part-time barman. Early that year I had to take time off both to go to court to be convicted of underage drinking that had happened when I was on leave from army training.

          The real problem with underage drinking isn’t particularly the age of the kids or their maturity. The real issue is the bloody pathetic parents who never bother to train their kids in how to handle alcohol. My parents made damn sure that I knew how to drink and have safe sex from my early teens – before I started to do those things.

          Personally, if you want to change the law, then I’d suggest that a drunk and disorderly charge is laid on the parents when their kids screw up and when they are under 20. That is where the responsibility lies.

          • r0b 2.1.1.3.1

            That is certainly remarkable life experience in your case by the age of 18! But I don’t think that policy should be driven by the exceptional few. How much time have you spent with the 18yos of today? Do you think of them as adults?

            The real problem with underage drinking isn’t particularly the age of the kids or their maturity.

            Yeah it is.

            The real issue is the bloody pathetic parents who never bother to train their kids in how to handle alcohol.

            That’s the underlying cause, sure, and it’s a difficult one to fix – any suggestions how? Unless we can fix that cause (and I think that takes generations), then for now the age and maturity of those consuming alcohol is exactly the real problem.

            Hey – we finally found an issue to disagree on!

            • lprent 2.1.1.3.1.1

              Hey we finally found an issue to disagree on!

              Probably.

              I don’t think that 18yo’s are adults. However I also don’t think that they can ever be unless they’re given room to screw up in. They’re going to do it anyway sometime. It could be when they’re over 40 like some people I’m aware of, or when they’re 15.

              The question is if lowering the drinking age allows them to do it earlier, thus reducing the damage longer-term or not.

              But for me, the question is about responsibility. If I’m considered responsible enough to carry a weapon or drive a car – then I should also be considered responsible enough to learn how to drink acceptably.

              Current 18yo’s aren’t particularly adult. But hey – they’ve spent their lives being escorted to school.

              • Bunji

                Very much agree LP – we only become adults by being given the responsibility. And we only learn acceptable risk by risk taking. Our current problem is that kids aren’t allowed to take any risks until they’re suddenly given a car (to crash), full license to increase the teen pregnancy rate and access to as much alcohol as they can drink.

                On drinking, if parents aren’t going to teach responsibility (and evidence suggests otherwise), then:
                – raise the price so the young can’t afford as much, particularly on RTDs (alcohol has never been cheaper compared to average wage).
                – have stronger parent responsibility laws, where parents can face serious fines etc if kids are intoxicated.
                – reduce availability by the number and opening times of off-licenses
                – split the drinking age, so kids can learn to drink supervised in bars (by bartenders who face heavy fines for serving intoxicated people), before they’re given full license to drink outside of a pub.

          • jcuknz 2.1.1.3.2

            I agree with your point about the parents … not all parents but enough to be a serious enough problem. First enough of them show poor example by getting blotto in front of their children and secondly enough of them don’t teach moderation to their children.
            We are tackling drink driving by making it unacceptable, the same approach is the way to go with binge drinking. The prohibition required is not on younger adults purchasing alcohol but rather the producers pushing it and particulalry the candy flavoured drinks.

            >>>”Talkback Taliban’ to describe the small group of right wing wing nuts lead by Redbaiter<<< The expression also applies here don't forget. National Good-Labour Bad makes as much sense as National Bad-Labour Good.

            • lprent 2.1.1.3.2.1

              Actually, I suspect the most dickarse parents would be those who consider themselves to be ‘responsible’. Certainly many of the long-term basket cases I’ve seen spent time in private schools.

        • Andrew 2.1.1.4

          i agree. it’s madness to say that you can drive a car, get married, go and serve your country in the foreign war, vote, smoke cigarettes, to name but a few … but sorry sonny your not old enough to drink.

          raising the drinking age and the price to stop people drinking is crazy. you penalise every other person for the actions of a few. You can’t legislate against stupid, just making it illegal wont stop the problem. That kid that drunk himself to death stole the booze of his grandmother(?).

          Where are the families teaching their children about the dangers of drinking too much? If anyone is to blame its the parents.

        • Croc 2.1.1.5

          I think not. I think granting marginally generous responsibility to the less-responsible youths in our society is a reasonable price to pay for not patronising and infantilising those who are more responsible.

          As someone who graduated from Otago not too long ago I think you would find those who are ‘more responsible’ are a very small minority or don’t drink at all. There is hardly anyone I can think of who hasn’t put them selves in potential death situations from binge drinking at least once. This is not hyperbole.

      • Jenny 2.1.2

        r0b I agree with Demac here. This is typical punitive top down, authoritarian response that we can expect from National.

        What will be the result?

        Let’s see.

        Criminalisation of a whole generation of young people accustomed to being regarded with the same respect accorded all other citizens.

        I am sure the police will jump at the chance to ‘legally’ collect all those DNA samples and give thousands of young people a police record. No doubt this new legal hammer for turning thousands of currently law abiding young people into “offenders” will fall most heavily on Maori and Island youth.

        Studies have shown that it is not the age, it is the availability of cheap alcohol particularly spirits that is the prime causative factor in youth drinking.

        I haven’t been able to find the link but I read an article in New Scientist on youth drinking. Which found that price and availability, not the age limit which was the biggest influence in youth drinking more, and drinking irresponsibly.

        To blame all the drinking problems on just the decrease on the age limit is simplistic knee jerk politics. At the same time the age was lowered to 18, all sorts of other things were achieved by the alcohol lobby to make alcohol more freely available, from longer opening hours to selling it in super markets.

        According to what I have read, increasing the price of alcohol had a greater affect on youth drinking than raising the age limit.

        One of the side affects of raising the price, which New Scientist found reinforced the downward trend in youth drinking, was that when alcohol is set at a higher price, young people who still persisted in buying it, were frowned on by their peers for wasting money.

        Peer pressure coupled with the price rises, added to removing alcohol from supermarkets and corner shops, would give better results than punitive measures that National is seeking to enforce.

        In Australia when just such a tariff was imposed on the RTDs which are specifically designed to target the youth market, this market collapsed almost over night. So much so, that Independent Liquor the maker of these drinks was reported closing their Aussie factory to concentrate on their New Zealand market.

        Of course National would never impose the neccesary tarrifs to achieve similar results here, because besides having the desired affect of lessening the social harm alcohol causes, with the added benefit of not being punitive, these sorts of measures would cut into the billions of dollars taken in profits by New Zealand’s booze barons.

        Instead lets whack the youth.

        Good on you r0b for being a cheer leader for the Nats.

        • r0b 2.1.2.1

          Will reply to this later on tonight (no time right now), but just in passing:

          Good on you r0b for being a cheer leader for the Nats.

          I wanted to thank you for that comment. I’m going to treasure it always!

        • r0b 2.1.2.2

          Jenny: r0b I agree with Demac here. This is typical punitive top down, authoritarian response that we can expect from National.

          I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know this has always been a conscience vote. I really don’t think it’s a party based issue, seems to cut across, as per the debate between lefties in this very thread.

          Criminalisation of a whole generation of young people accustomed to being regarded with the same respect accorded all other citizens.

          A rise couldn’t happen over night of course, it would have to be phased in with a long lead time. It is certainly much easier to lower the age than to raise it.

          I am sure the police will jump at the chance to ‘legally’ collect all those DNA samples and give thousands of young people a police record.

          A different issue, but one that I agree we need to be very wary of.

          I haven’t been able to find the link but I read an article in New Scientist on youth drinking.

          Was it this one I wonder? Have a good read.

          Which found that price and availability, not the age limit which was the biggest influence in youth drinking more, and drinking irresponsibly.

          Since when does the age limit not have an impact on the availability?

          To blame all the drinking problems on just the decrease on the age limit is simplistic knee jerk politics. At the same time the age was lowered to 18, all sorts of other things were achieved by the alcohol lobby to make alcohol more freely available, from longer opening hours to selling it in super markets.

          Yes of course there are multiple factors. The drinking age is the headline of the post, and yes I’m defending my position on that. But please note that the original post quoted reference to the other actions needed, and that I concluded “Raise the drinking age, and enact the other measures needed to make it effective”. Drinking age is just the headline, of course it’s a package of measures.

          Instead lets whack the youth.

          No, let’s help stop them from killing themselves.

          Good on you r0b for being a cheer leader for the Nats.

          Once again, thank you for that, it truly made my day.

        • Lew 2.1.2.3

          In Australia when just such a tariff was imposed on the RTDs which are specifically designed to target the youth market, this market collapsed almost over night.

          Yes and no. The additional excise was imposed upon spirit-based pre-mixed drinks. One of its effects was the development of high-alcohol, sweet brewed drinks which escaped the tax. It’s trivial to ferment a sugar-water mix to create a 10%abv solution, add concentrated flavourings, additives, caffeine and carbonation and have precisely the same product. Hell, you can do this at home with bread yeast, white sugar and a soda stream kit.

          L

      • Bunji 2.1.3

        Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there’.

        There were always going to be more drunken youths when you lowered the drinking age – the question is – are there fewer drunk people in their mid-twenties?

  3. Croc 3

    Not so long ago I would have vehemently disagreed with raising the drinking age, but now I tend to agree. Alcohol is an incredibly dangerous drug and should be controlled accordingly. New Zealanders have shown that we neither have the maturity or the will to drink sensibly and the government should deal with this accordingly to prevent further deaths.

    • Andrew 3.1

      how about cars? why not raise the driving age to 20 as well?

      • mcflock 3.1.1

        it would piss the farmers off.

        No real reason other than that against raising the driving age to 20.

        • jcuknz 3.1.1.1

          I was going to say that “I was 23 before I had the opportunity to get foolishly drunk and quickly decided it was a waste of my limited resources at the time” until I remembered going to the village pub in Somerset when I was 16yo on a fruit picking holiday [school organised] and getting almost legless on just two glasses of scrumpy. The other entertainment was Shakepeare at Stratford -on-Avon standing at the back of the stalls at a cut-price admission.
          Young people away from home will behave to excess unless given a better example by their parents. My guardian didn’t drink at all and his wife had a glass of Guiness for medicinal reasons each evening. The ideal situation seems to me that the climate or society when they leave home lets them have an innitiating excess but encourages moderation subsequently … obviously I am a foolish idealist.
          The sad thing about enough areas of society is that getting drunk is accepted as ‘normal’ behaviour. As a senior I object to price increases unless I can buy it tax reduced/free on my Gold Card. 🙂

          • Ms X 3.1.1.1.1

            In mitigation, I think you should add that scrumpy is very strong stuff indeed.

            I think that there are a number of issues here, marketing of alcohol aimed at young people and alcohol content therein being one. If you take a look at what is aimed at the young people of today from bras for six year olds to vile and violent movies and games, it’s a wonder that they can walk upright. I deal with a sizeable number of young people every week on a one to one basis, and I don’t think that they are any better or worse than they were 40 years ago. In those days it was common to drink 10 pints of something and drive home. When I arrived in NZ 24 years ago, young people were getting alcohol at 15 and celebrating rugby games just as they do today. Can we change the culture please and remove the blame from the youngsters? It is after all, not their fault that the whole western world is not happy unless bombed out of its brains one way or another. Leave the drinking age where it is – that way at least when they do go overseas they are less likely to make utter prats of themselves, or their country.

    • Ari 3.2

      Alcohol is certainly dangerous, but we need a better solution than simply slowing down people’s descent into binge drinking, or encouraging teenagers to flout a legal restriction without popular support.

      What’s really indicative of the angle of attack is that the middle-aged have pretty abysmal alcohol abuse statistics. It’s partially a matter of education, partially of terrible rolemodels, and partially of our culture of alcohol reliance*. The fact is that we have much larger fish to fry than when people start drinking, and that the minimum age is largely a distraction.

      If we cut down on unsafe drinking behaviour among the whole demographic without affecting the youth alcohol abuse statistics, I’d certainly be willing to admit we might THEN want to think about raising the age. But right now anyone who thinks this is just a youth problem is woefully ignorant.

      *By which I mean that people are reliant on alcohol to address social anxiety or to deal with bad moods.

      • Croc 3.2.1

        Yup I agree. There is no silver bullet and the alcohol industry needs a major overhaul. Multiple approaches are needed, raising the age is one of the tools that can be used.

        • Ari 3.2.1.1

          No, raising the age is a distraction that makes people who blame alcohol abuse on youth think that the problem has been solved.

          It’s certainly an approach that can be used if youth alcohol abuse doesn’t shrink with the rest of alcohol abuse as other solutions are put into play, but doing it right off the bat is going to make it much harder politically speaking to get any broad change on this issue.

          I don’t disagree that the excesses of drinking for young adults is a very real problem, mind. They are. The issue ought to be how to encourage people of all ages to drink in moderation, how to educate the public as to how many drinks is too many, and how to address the cultural perception that you can drown your problems or anxieties in alcohol.

      • Croc 3.2.2

        For New Zealanders aged under 25 years, alcohol-related trauma is a leading cause of death. In 2000, it was estimated that alcohol contributed to the deaths of 212 young people aged 1529 years.

        A large part of it is a youth problem

  4. The so-called alcohol crisis is really the crisis of capitalism.
    Why do you think kids binge drink? They are hounded to succeed, keep up the national standards, live on an unlivable wage, have their hormones regimented, are intellectually insulted by bansker antics, lies and corruption. Any intelligent kid wants to escape this sick, cruel reality they are destined for. Unless of course they give in and join them and drink themselves silly enough to live with it.
    Its hypocricy to raise the drinking age above the age of exploitation.
    I would ban booze advertising, ban alcopops, tax the booze barons with a swinging 40% windfall profits tax, and wait for the the marines to land to overthrow my regime.

    • Bright Red 4.1

      Opiate of the people – a release from the drudgery of the day to day for those in poverty.

      And idiots getting plastered.

    • Andrew 4.2

      rubbish, they drink because it’s cool, not because of any of your reasons.

      Edit: sorry, meant to say that kids drink because it’s cool. BR has a good point as well regarding lower socio economic society drinking to forget about the crappy life they have. That solution is not to increase the price as you will just take more money off them. Lift them out of the poverty they live in and give them a reason not to drink.

  5. kriswgtn 5

    And grog needs to be taken out of supermarkets and dairies as well.

    • jcuknz 5.1

      Nonsense that’s where I get my discount bottles of beer,. without the competition there would be no discounts. I still only have one drink a day whatever the price.
      I don’t see this as a current problem becuase I rarely drank in previous decades, so it is nothing to do with the meaningless of modern society … that is just politically oriented crap. If kids are given a reason to live and enjoy their work and play, as most are anyway I’m sure, then they will not resort to drink or drugs.
      To be political I would say we need to employ our youth, it is a government responsibility to have them transition from school to work rather than via dole or DPB. If instead of student loans there were allowances such as I had from my parents when I studied which precluded anything for alchohol, though I managed to smoke after serving two years in the Army. One pound room-rent, one pound course materials, and one pound to feed myself, buses etc … increased to two pounds after the first term and I pleaded for an increase. That was when a ‘worker’ got 6<7 pounds a week..
      But today people expect more as a 'right'. then my luxury was a radio hired for maybe one or two shillings a week. Very few people had TV, not sure if it had restarted after WWII. .

  6. butnahyeahnah 6

    I firmly believe that the legalization and regulation of NZ third most favorite drug, (you know the one: it does hardly any harm compared with NZ’s other two favorites), is really at the heart of this issue.
    The complete double standard that this govt (and the last Labour Govt) shows in its differing approach to various drugs is sickening and offensive.
    Re-Legislating the age of consumption will not change anything, science based policy will.
    Binge drinking is an inherited fault, just like moderate alcohol consumption is.
    Stop lying to your kids about the harms of various “social” drugs and I predict the problem will dissipate faster the one of HonKeys smiles.

  7. Kerry 7

    Personally I think that the age people can buy alcohol from off licences should be raised to 20 from pubs, restaurants, etc the age should be left alone. By 18 the majority of kids have already had a few years of drinking experience – with or without their parents knowledge or consent. In my view it much better if those experiences are in supervised places (such as a pub or somewhere that a responsible parent is going to be).

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      I agree. If any age change is done, it should be 20 for buying at stores, at 18 for pubs, bars, nightclubs etc.

  8. randal 8

    its all aquestion of mind over matter
    the liquor industry doesnt mind and we dont matter!

  9. A Nonny Moose 9

    Bollocks. It’s infantalizing youth to make age the sole focus. It’s lazy; makes adults feel like they’ve done something for their kids, when in reality it’s just more standing over them, shaking a finger and saying “I told you so”.

    TEACH them how to drink. Give them watered wine/a weak shandy when they’re 12. It’s not illegal to drink at any age, just to purchase it. Talk to your kids about it, and not just that “No no no” lecture that makes them sulk and rebel anyway. Talk about it at school, and not just those “Omg consequence DEATH” talks either. Check in with them if they want to party “Hey, if you want to have a drink, how about giving me a call if you’d like a ride home” or “well, if you’re going to drink, I’ll leave some water and a bucket by your bed” or…how about being the responsible driver yourself for the kids?

    10 years is not a “failed experiment”; a generation without change is a fail, because it shows a generation that has not learned new tools to deal with it.

    Antispam: “Lectures” Hah.

    • Bored 9.1

      Im with you Mr/s Moose,

      I got done in the 70s for underage drinking a few weeks before I was 20. Cost me $5 fine, and did not stop me. If we expect 18 year olds to take on the full responsibilities of citizenship, including the right to be killed for their country, perhaps we need to allow them to kill themselves with drink if they should so choose.

      I agree with the educative approach, but also feel there is something deeply materialistic and narcissistic with the way our society binges on everything. Old and young do it, the elders have not set a good example.

  10. Olwyn 10

    I have to say I largely disagree with you. A huge part of public debate in this country centres on who to constrain and why, without any consultation with whoever is being constrained. We have wages on a downward trend. We have unaffordable housing. We have plans to stamp out smoking. Alongside material privation with no end in sight, the attitude is “Don’t do anything that might kill you. Let us bore you to death instead.” That said, I do not think that alcopops should have ever been unleashed, and I do think it is possible to make steps toward cheerful, responsible drinking. Where the constraints should lie is where are afraid to place constraints – on the makers and sellers of alcohol. Advertising that presupposes binge drinking, for example. Pricing that drives people to stock up in bottle stores rather than go to the pub, which leads to the practice of getting drunk before going out, and so on.

  11. Lindsay 11

    Agree with Moose. I have offered my kids a sip of whatever I am drinking since they were young and neither has developed a taste (although the youngest has a way to go till the danger years). We have always discussed alcohol, smoking and drugs matter-of-factly and, touchwood, neither has exhibited any interest. I am hoping that all those cliches about self-worth, strong identity and unconditional love really will provide a pretty effective defence, though a 100% guarantee is impossible. The potential for parents to make a positive difference is far greater than that of legislation.

    • The Baron 12.1

      Yes it is – regardless of what the purchase age is set at.

      So why do you assume that raising the drinking age to 20 will stop 15-16 year olds from flouting the law; and also stop 18-19 year olds from joining them?!

  12. Oliver 13

    What drinking age??

  13. The Baron 14

    I find this debate so infuriating – mainly because people think that writing a new set of laws will make any difference what so ever. You can’t simply decree that such behaviours will end.

    As far as I am concerned, the de facto drinking age in New Zealand appears to be 16. Its that age that most parents appear to be willing to supply their child with alcohol – or at least, the age whereby most NZ teenagers appear to have absolutely no problem getting hold of some. What we set the purchase age at is likely to continue to be irrelevant if this “defacto” regime remains unchallenged. All you will do is hinder more 16+ year olds from drinking in a safe and controlled environment.

    For what it is worth, my own policy prescription is:
    – Leave the purchase age at 18. It is the logical “age of majority” for all of the other responsibilities listed, and is simply illogical to deny the right to drink from people who otherwise have so many other responsibilities as adults.
    – But crack down HARD on off license selling, and any supply of alcohol to minors. Actually make the purchase age mean something, rather than it simply being “the age when it gets easier to get pissed”. I’m thinking limits on the amount people can purchase at a bottlestore, and maybe stepped ages – i.e. you can’t buy spirits until youre 25; and different price signals. I don’t confess to know all the answers here!
    – Encourage people to drink in controlled environments like restaurants and bars where over-consumption and supply can be more readily controlled. Make it preferrable to drink socially on licensed premises than at home. Price signals again?
    – Make people more responsible for the consequences of their behaviour when drunk. If you need A&E due to doing something dumb because you were hammered, then here is the bill. Likewise, if you drink yourself into liver failure, back of the queue for replacement. This is an extension of the sort of approach we take to ciggies. Make individuals responsible for the costs that they are placing on society for their poor use of alcohol.

    We have to stop pretending that we can simply tell people what to do with regard to alcohol, and infantilising young people that clearly believe they have a right to drink. Steering towards safe alternatives and encouraging an appreciation of consequences of action will always work better than a simple ban and an ineffectual law.

    • Bored 14.1

      “I find this debate so infuriating mainly because people think that writing a new set of laws will make any difference what so ever. You can’t simply decree that such behaviours will end.”

      Thanks Baron, somebody had to say it loudly. I have people at work who are sticklers for rules, policy and process…the least trangression by somebody else draws howls for retributive action to make the “offenders” fall into line. We are a sick society when we believe that you can pass a law to solve a behavoiral problem, that enforcement is down to denial of access and retribution. I have always thought there was something deeply authoritarian in the Kiwi psyche.

  14. vidiot 15

    Simple solution – leave the drinking age at 18 for licensed (supervised) premises and raise the purchasing age for off license sales to 20.

  15. Michael 16

    I would prefer a split age restriction, if anything. Liquor stores/supermarkets should be 20, while bars and clubs should stay at 18.

    (Oops, vidiot beat me.)

    • Herodotus 16.1

      Why are so many here and in other places all in unison re 18 on licences premises and 20 to buy from stores. This to me is such an easy popularist part solution. I think many will agree it is not the silver bullet, but for me at least it is not making the issue any worse and most probablly a step in the right direction, yet it will require continual follow up from the experts as to what other measures will be required to build from this. I will be interested if this goes to a conscience vote the rhetoric that will accompany the reasoning to keep the status quo and who takes this side.
      Re the 18 as an adult, why then to we believe that you are not fit to gamble in a casino until 20, is this the pinacle to adulthood, to pay money into a casion?

  16. Rosy 17

    Ban advertising, raise the age of buying from off-licences and don’t forget alcohol companies are using the exact same strategies to get their product to young kids as the tobacco companies have so successfully done. Yes, parents should watch kids, but not at 18 – they as getting drunk well away from home (just live near student halls of residences and you’ll be aware of that – even the kids from ‘good’ families).

  17. rich 18

    So you don’t believe adults have a right to equal treatment and freedom from age discrimination?

    Alcohol problems are a symptom of social exclusion. Substance availability isn’t the cause, unfettered capitalism is the cause.

  18. Tiger Mountain 19

    “I’ve stopped drinking. But only while I’m asleep’ said soccer’s George Best in years prior to his liver transplant, after which he sadly resumed drinking until his demise.

    The sauce is a worry alright, the booze barons were certainly very naughty introducing entry level turps, aka ‘alcopop’. However you do have to cut the kids some slack amid some guidance. Commenter Andrew above got in one”give people a reason not to drink’ make life less miserable for people. Though I think there remains an inherited human existential liking for getting “out of it’

    I worry about wowserism however well intended or even necessary, because fundamentally it is a reactionary rather than progressive stance.

  19. Descendant Of Smith 20

    The bottom line is the drunker the working class are the more money can be made off them (not only from sales but from secondary aspects such as imprisonment – lawyers fees, private prisons, fines and so on).

    Any correlation with age has only come because it coincides with easier access to alcohol – increased opening hours, sales in supermarkets and dairies, cheaper drinks and as a result less drinking at home with parents.

    Age seems to me to be pretty much irrelevant in the whole discourse -price, access and marketing and lack of health support from those addicted are the bigger issues.

    There’s plenty of people over the age of twenty binge drinking and simply lifting the age won’t make too much difference if the other issues aren’t dealt with.

    Wasn’t too hard to access alcohol in the 70’s when I was 13 – 18. Drinking on a hill in Pukekura Park was usually a much preferred option than carrying on to church to pray to a god who didn’t exist.

  20. People tend not to have a problem supporting restrictions on behaviour if the restrictions won’t apply to them – the enthusiasm among over-20s for raising the alcohol purchase age to 20 is a classic example.

    In short – if alcohol’s such a problem, propose restrictions that will apply to you as well as to others. Otherwise it’s just another “Damn kids get off my lawn!”

    • r0b 21.1

      Too many of those damn kids can’t get off my lawn because they’re dead. Would those of you who don’t want to try and address the problem please come and drag away the bodies?

      No I’m not accusing anyone of causing these deaths, but I am trying to put the issue in your face. Sorry to be shocking, but dead kids is what we’re really talking about here. Unless you have another way to roll back the skyrocketing rates of alcohol related deaths and problems – then I’m all ears.

      • The Baron 21.1.1

        Those kids are, by in large, already banned from purchasing alcohol.

        How will reiterating a higher age change that, or solve the problem that you so passionately portray? Sorry R0B, but Psycho does have a point – its not the drinking age that’s the problem, its the flouting of it that is. And yelling “higher!” doesn’t solve that problem.

        • r0b 21.1.1.1

          And yelling “higher!’ doesn’t solve that problem

          How the (pardon me) hell would you know?

          The problem got worse when the age was lowered. What evidence do you have that it won’t get better when the age is raised? Medical and legal professionals collectively think raising the age (along with other measures) will help – why do you know better?

          • The Baron 21.1.1.1.1

            The problem coincided with the lowering of the drinking age – for 18-20 year olds you could therefor argue that to some degree correlation of those changes equals causation.

            Yes, I accept the argument that lowering the age to 18 may have made it easier for those under 18 to get alcohol. But that is not the end of that explanation – there is more to this than simply the age.

            Hence my point – you cannot pretend that all young people will see that the age has gone up and diligently stop drinking. They’re ignoring it or getting around it now – and my bet is that they will continue to ignore it then.

            You can see my more positive suggestions above.

            • r0b 21.1.1.1.1.1

              The problem coincided with the lowering of the drinking age for 18-20 year olds you could therefor argue that to some degree correlation of those changes equals causation.

              Yup.

              you cannot pretend that all young people will see that the age has gone up and diligently stop drinking.

              Of course not, not over night. These sorts of changes take years to filter through. That’s why it took 10 years for the consensus to form that lowering the age had been a mistake. But now that we can see it’s a mistake, we should go back, even if it takes a long time to make up lost ground, even if we don’t make up all the ground we lost. Why wouldn’t we try?

              There are many positive suggestions proposed in the links in the original post too, it isn’t just age, it’s a package of measures.

              You can see my more positive suggestions above.

              Nothing wrong with some of your suggestions but you said:

              I find this debate so infuriating mainly because people think that writing a new set of laws will make any difference what so ever. You can’t simply decree that such behaviours will end.

              That argument, such as it is, applies equally to all laws and all behaviours (including those required to implement your suggestions). Why have laws at all then?

              • The Baron

                But they don’t equally apply to other laws R0B. Good law making requires the law to be in step with its society – otherwise that law will be largely ignored, used selectively and be pretty ineffectual.

                Consider how ineffectual our copyright law is, which is arguably out of step with our new societal norms with regard to paying (or not paying) for films and music.

                I believe that alcohol is the same. You can make the purchasing age whatever you want, and it will only make a marginal difference to the problems that you refer to. It won’t stop those under that age from drinking – the purchasing age never has. This is because our societal norm is clearly out of step with that policy prescription. Conversely, a law against say murder works, because nearly everyone agrees that murder is a bad thing. Our law is reflecting the standards of our society.

                Think of it this way – do you really believe that rasing the drinking age is going to make a difference to the next generation of 16 year olds who want to go out and get hammered? Do you really think they’re paying attention to the law now? Why do you think they’ll pay attention when it’s raised even higher? And why do you think that a 10 year phase in will change those attitudes? Don’t you think something else is going on here, and that your focussing on the wrong solutions, for the wrong problems?

                • Bunji

                  Scarily I find myself agreeing with most of what you have to say on this topic Baron – I guess you can’t always be wrong 😀

                  Raising the age may well have the unintended consequence of more illegal drinking, away from sensible controls, as 16 yr-olds now expect access to alcohol; it could actually make the problem worse.

                  • The Baron

                    Hah. I can go back to ranting about randian superheroes and corrupt communists if you want me to?!

                    Seriously though, its a rare chance to talk policy without politics on this site – so perhaps it ain’t a surprise that its a bit more sensible.

                • r0b

                  But they don’t equally apply to other laws R0B. Good law making requires the law to be in step with its society otherwise that law will be largely ignored, used selectively and be pretty ineffectual.

                  I agree, so let’s find out what society wants to do about the drinking age. Note that “society” is bigger that “16 – 20 year olds who want to drink”, society is all of us. Not also that medical and legal professionals, and “prominent New zealanders” – all part of society – are calling for this change.

                  I believe that alcohol is the same. You can make the purchasing age whatever you want, and it will only make a marginal difference to the problems that you refer to. It won’t stop those under that age from drinking the purchasing age never has.

                  It made a difference when we lowered it. It won’t if we raise it?

                  Think of it this way do you really believe that rasing the drinking age is going to make a difference to the next generation of 16 year olds who want to go out and get hammered?

                  Not the next generation no, but the one after that, and the one after that, and…

                  Do you really think they’re paying attention to the law now? Why do you think they’ll pay attention when it’s raised even higher?

                  Yes I really do. Teens know exactly what the drinking age is, it’s a big issue for them. I have considerable personal experience of this matter!

                  And why do you think that a 10 year phase in will change those attitudes?

                  Why do you think it won’t?

                  Don’t you think something else is going on here, and that your focussing on the wrong solutions, for the wrong problems?

                  There are many things going on here, and many solutions that would spring from proper answers to society’s underlying woes – which is why I’m working pretty hard to bring about and suport left / green governments.

              • f_t

                “That’s why it took 10 years for the consensus to form that lowering the age had been a mistake”

                No consensus here. Or do you mean the knee-jerk consensus?

      • Jenny 21.1.2

        Unless you have another way to roll back the skyrocketing rates of alcohol related deaths and problems then I’m all ears.

        Really?

        Then R0B, why throughout your post did you ignore the strong recommendation of the Law Commission Report on the pressing need to raise the price of alcohol through excise taxes, and instead zeroed in on the punitive approach.

        A blind spot you share with the Nats. who also consciously ignored this recommendation from the Law Commission Report.

        You say you are sorry for resorting to emotive imagery against those of us who criticise Nationals punitive approach to “please come and drag away the bodies” of the “damn kids” on “my lawn because they are dead”.

        In any debate, resorting to this sort of emotive histrionics is usually the last resort of someone with a weak argument.

        In my opinion your accusation that those of us who don’t agree with you “don’t want to try and address this problem” actually applies more to you and the Nats.

        R0B do you really prefer do resort to punitive and heavy handed policing, to actually putting in place pollicies that have been proven to work, like increasing the price and with targetted levies and removing alcohol from our supermarkets and corner stores?

        R0B if you don’t choose to reply, your silence will count as an affirmation.

        [lprent: You’re lucky that I didn’t see this comment and its particularly irritating last paragraph until after r0b responded (he is too kind-hearted). I’d have just banned you for a week or so like I did with SHG a week or so ago. ]

        • r0b 21.1.2.1

          Then R0B, why throughout your post did you ignore the strong recommendation of the Law Commission Report on the pressing need to raise the price of alcohol through excise taxes, and instead zeroed in on the punitive approach.

          I did no such thing Jenny. I quoted the recommendations of the Law Commission report:

          The report recommended increasing the tax on alcohol, restricted advertising, raising the drinking age and lowering the legal blood alcohol limit.

          And I concluded as follows:

          Raise the drinking age, and enact the other measures needed to make it effective.

          If you’re going to have a go at me, get your basic facts right first.

          A blind spot you share with the Nats.

          As above, the blind spot is yours.

          In any debate, resorting to this sort of emotive histrionics is usually the last resort of someone with a weak argument.

          Is it indeed. Like those powerful emotive drunk driving adds and speeding adds that have been effective in changing public attitudes to these issues. Like the powerful, emotive, “It’s not OK” adds on family violence. Like the emotive “Never shake a baby” campaign. Weak arguments one and all.

          Nope, sorry this debate is about the number of dead and damaged kids that we as a society can tolerate in the name of youth drinking. Don’t like facing that? Tough.

          R0B do you really prefer do resort to punitive and heavy handed policing

          No I don’t. Did you actually read the post? Hint – paragraph 1.

          to actually putting in place pollicies that have been proven to work, like increasing the price and with targetted levies and removing alcohol from our supermarkets and corner stores?

          All part of the package of measures that I am supporting, as above.

          R0B if you don’t choose to reply, your silence will count as an affirmation.

          Just FYI, as a debating tactic, I consider that rather rude. Which may account for me being a little tetchy in this comment. Sorry ’bout that.

          • Jenny 21.1.2.1.1

            I apologise R0B (so hard to type your non-de-plume) Your right I probably didn’t read the small print in your post closely enough.

            It is just that, I feel offended, when I see proscriptive policies being promoted in banner headlines above more sensible common sense remedies.

            The solutions which grass roots communities themselves are calling for.

            Like banning corner bottles stores or raising the tariff on RTDs, or banning youth targeted advertising promotions. Which have been forced on us by the booze industry lobby.

            I feel offended at being accused of not facing up to as you put it

            the number of dead and damaged kids that we as a society can tolerate in the name of youth drinking. Don’t like facing that? Tough.

            I am deeply concerned about the dead and damaged “kids” as you call them in this country, and would support anyone who wants to do something positive that would make a real difference.

            Let us all put aside the tub thumping simplistic rhetoric behind calls for punitive actions. The problem of youth drinking (and all the other negative youth stats), is deeper and more societal based than just the age at which people are allowed to buy alcohol.

            Before the drinking age was lowered, New Zealand was already leading the world tables in negative youth statistics, being a world leader in youth suicides.

            Simple right wing knee jerk calls to raise the drinking age, whilst being a populist policy like, Three Strikes, or banning smoking in prisons, will not address the problem of youth drinking. As these sorts of populist policies don’t address the underlying causes.

            Symptomatic of the societal base of this problem is the level of disrespect for human welfare shown in a society which protects and defends the phenomenal profits of billionaire booze barons and other parasites, who are never called on to pay for the full societal harm of their products.

            Look at the advertising for cruisers and other such lolly water drinks, which are directly targeted at young people.

            Is this moral?

            Should it be allowed?

            R0B If you want to be punitive how about calling for legislation for hitting the booze barons and hitting them hard.

            How about calling on Labour to put up a private members bill to this affect.

            Or promising to do this on return to office.

            • r0b 21.1.2.1.1.1

              I apologise R0B (so hard to type your non-de-plume) Your right I probably didn’t read the small print in your post closely enough.

              My apologies too – I’d had a long day when I knocked out my grumpy reply.

              It is just that, I feel offended, when I see proscriptive policies being promoted in banner headlines above more sensible common sense remedies.

              Whether we like it or not, if the drinking age is one of the measures addressed, it is always going to be the headline issue. I’m in favour of raising it, and I’m not afraid of saying so. But is NOT my preferred option. As I tired to make clear in my post, my preferred option would have been for NZ to develop a mature and responsible attitude to alcohol. But we failed, so the question is what next?

              I am deeply concerned about the dead and damaged “kids’ as you call them in this country, and would support anyone who wants to do something positive that would make a real difference.

              As I recommended to Lew, I suggest that you read the Law Commission report linked to in the post, Chapters 3 and 4.

              Symptomatic of the societal base of this problem is the level of disrespect for human welfare shown in a society which protects and defends the phenomenal profits of billionaire booze barons and other parasites, who are never called on to pay for the full societal harm of their products.

              I quite agree.

              R0B If you want to be punitive how about calling for legislation for hitting the booze barons and hitting them hard.

              I don’t know that anything we do to “the barons” will have much of an effect on consumption, unless we legislate for alcohol to be sold like cigarettes – plain packaging and health warnings. But could the industry be better regulated and contributing more to the costs of the damage it causes? Hell yes.

              • Jenny

                Thank you very much R0B for your very gracious reply.

                could the industry be better regulated and contributing more to the costs of the damage it causes? Hell yes.

                I think getting rid of supermarket sales of alcohol would be a good start.

                Giving local bodies the power to refuse liqour outlets in their communities would be another good start.

                Banning all liquor advertising as per your suggestion would be another good one.

                And last but not least, highly targeted tarrifs on pre mixed, highly sugared, spirits laced drinks reflecting the societal harm they do.

    • Too many of those damn kids can’t get off my lawn because they’re dead. Would those of you who don’t want to try and address the problem please come and drag away the bodies?

      It would be nice if there were some law or regulation that would prevent deaths from drug abuse, but the reality is otherwise. What you’re proposing is that restrictions be applied to people other than yourself – why others and not you? If applying restrictions to 18-20-year-olds would be a good idea, why isn’t it a good idea for people our age? Because people our age don’t die? Well, that’s not true, is it? Because people our age don’t cause any problems for the Police or emergency services? Well, that’s not true, is it? Because people our age don’t commit crimes while drunk? But that’s not true, is it?

      This is the heffalump in the room – if it’s sauce for the goose, why not for the gander? If alcohol use needs restricting, surely it needs restricting for everybody.

    • QoT 21.3

      So true, Milt. Don’t you just want to cackle and slit your wrists at the number of people on this thread saying with complete sincerity, “Oh I USED to be in favour of a lower drinking age, but NOW [that it won’t affect me] I think it should be raised!”

  21. Dan 22

    I reflect back on a chat I had with a young Belgian exchange student. He loved his time in New Zealand but could not get over the Saturday night gatherings. In Belgium he enjoyed the gatherings to chat, enjoy music and get to know others, often the opposite sex. In New Zealand, he was saddened that the Saturday night was getting wasted and getting laid, two not-always-compatible aspirations.

    It is not so much the age but the social expectations that are at fault. The jockism encouraged by liquor advertising only helps set the climate.

    Overall, I think the younger ones are better at the drink-drive expectations, but are definitely over the top with their alcoholic excesses.

  22. MrSmith 23

    Let face it kids, National sold out to to booze barons under Shipley (remember!) and lowered the drinking age, don’t think for a minute they will raise it again, end of story.

    • Herodotus 23.1

      Did we not have a review of the drinking age 3-4 years ago, and we still got the same outcome. Mr Smith can you refreash my memory who held the greatest number of seats in parliament then?
      Both Nat and Lab have to take ownership of this, so both parties have sold out, or is there something missing that takes away partial blame towards Lab?
      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10409882

      • MrSmith 23.1.1

        Herodotus, please read my post again, no mention of reviews or labour. Altho you do have a couple of points.

        • Herodotus 23.1.1.1

          Mrs Shippley have valid reasons, it was something like that her children were mature enough to socialise and have a drink. Nice to see that good law is supported based on 2 examples. I looked but could not find and follow up comments made by Mrs Shippley. Many in 98(?) parliament I think made a mistake and could not have any understanding of the Genie that they were letting out of the bottle. It shows back 12 years ago that MP’s were out of touch, how things have not changed!! 😀

  23. Blue 24

    I have no patience with the ‘but 18 year olds can marry, vote, join the army blah blah blah’ argument.

    Fourteen year olds can babysit young children on their own. 16 year olds can consent to sex and drive cars solo (and sail solo around the world, apparently). 18 year olds can vote and join the army, but cannot gamble until they are 20. We still celebrate 21sts as the entry to adulthood, but the Government doesn’t consider you fully independent of your parents for student allowance purposes until you are 24.

    There are different ages that society considers appropriate for different things, not just one age at which, when you reach it, you can do anything and everything.

    My main concern with the age at 18 is that some students reach this age in their final year at high school and proceed to help their underage friends buy alcohol. The de facto drinking age is anything from 14-16.

    The most worrying thing was the scrap over school after balls, and hearing 16-year-olds who plainly thought they were entitled to alcohol even though they are underage, and furthermore that an absence of alcohol at an event would mean there would be no fun.

  24. outofbed 25

    Its all about the NZ culture and societal problems
    Why do young people feel the need to get high to be happy ?
    Teach self esteem to young children
    Change our society from a consumer driven quick fix one
    Have a social justice policy that makes society more equitable
    12.50 per hour working at Maccas I would get pissed every weekend too
    So self confidence hope , self respect and a more equitable caring society
    would do the trick
    I won’t hold my breath

  25. f_t 26

    By drinking age I assume you mean ‘the purchasing age’. There is no minimum drinking age in New Zealand. Though all persons under 18 years must be supplied with alcohol only by their parent(s) or legal guardian(s).

    So if their parents bought it for them, and they drink it at a private residence, then it doesn’t matter if they’re under 18.

    Also, if someone gives them alcohol in a private setting, it has to be shown that the giver had purchased the alcohol with the specific intent to give to them

  26. Galeandra 27

    Yes Dan “It is not so much the age but the social expectations that are at fault. The jockism encouraged by liquor advertising only helps set the climate.”

    Time for a little more Nanny State? There are many aspects to social unhealth that we need to address which invariably will lead to our treading on someone’s petunias.Public drunkenness, brawling, assaults, misuse of vehicles are behaviours that collectively manifest social immaturity. It is time for firmer parenting as was demonstrated over QB weekend when miraculous improvements in driving behaviour were achieved. Similar firmness is needed elsewhere. The lessons the young and their elders need to learn are that there are limits to personal freedoms, and if they cannot rule themselves, then others will do it for them. This applies to classroom behaviours, workplace expectations or whatever.

  27. prism 28

    Itspathetic to read so many posts that talk about teaching moderation, education etc. I expect pie in the sky from young people not willing to have any of their pleasures circumscribed to lessen the harm that has been caused by the misguided experiment. But some I feel are older, but still unwilling to accept change for the greater good. It used to be that you could drink ehrn with adults at a meal in restaurants, that would be good to go back to.

  28. Ag 29

    If it is that much of a problem, make it illegal for people aged 18-20 to purchase and drink anything more potent than beer. They can still go to the pub and drink alcohol, but it will make it much harder for them to get completely plastered.

    It’s a reasonable compromise. Trying to ban 18 year olds from drinking won’t work, as New Zealanders are a lawless people.

    Only idiots think that abstinence works.

    • jcuknz 29.1

      Abstinence does work it is prohibition that doesn’t ….I’ve been largely abstinent for most of my life from choice and more important things to do with my resources and only started regular drinking in recent years for medicinal reasons [ red wine supposedly good for cardiac patients … though when I had my quad by-pass back in 1984 we were allowed a single stubbie each evening…. makes one wonder if anyone really knows ].
      Another aspect to the subject … the possible lack of self confidence which makes people want to get into groups, and the easiest grouping is in a pub or similar drinking situation. Lack of confidence to be on your own and do your own thing.

    • jcuknz 29.2

      I’d suggest that Kiwis are a mix of do-gooders who make silly laws for the best of reasons and people who ignore those laws becuase they are silly. 🙂

  29. You seem to forget John Key and the supermarket owners own vineyards and sell wine for a profit.

    Why is he going to increase prices or make it harder to get, stuff the country, stuff the people, there is money to be made and you just have to realise that making money is far more important than a country or it’s people.

    Can you amagine how much of the health bill we could save if the price of booze went up so people could not afford to buy so much.

  30. What a serious step backwards raising the alcohol purchase age would be.

    The problem lies not in access and supply, not in the age, alcohol licence locations, hours, or forms, but lies in the “how”, in the “how” our society views alcohol and drunkenness. To change that we need to focus on:
    “(1) Placing clear (and duly enforced) expectations on drinking behaviour and parental supervision behaviour
    (2) Changing the way people see and think about alcohol and drinking, and changing the information, strength of beers, and cheap supervised environments available to them”

    “As the article “Italian Teens Frown on Binge Drinking’ highlights, countries with the safest, responsible, and harm-free drinking cultures generally have liberal alcohol access laws and drinking and purchase ages under 18 (some have no drinking age at all!). The difference in these successful countries is that (1) drinkers themselves, young and old, look down with disdain upon binge and destructive drinking and model good drinking behaviours; and (2) “People learn how to drink from an early age within the safe and supporting environment of the home.”

    Raising the purchase age is not just ineffective and unfair, it is counter productive.

    Once again, we need to focus on the “how”

    • Jenny 31.1

      Thanks, for your considered and well put, contribution to this debate. (Much better than my intemperate efforts.)

      More light, less heat. Way to go Andreas!

      • Andreas T 31.1.1

        Thanks.

        I really worry that the want to get “tough’ on alcohol harms and want “far reaching’ change is going to lead to reactionary change on the seemly simplest of solutions. I worry that people will hammer the access and supply because it seems the best way will make a immediate difference.

        I’m sure it will make a difference. I’m sure if we hammer access and supply we will further pervert the efforts to get the law and culture to match and to get a long-term cultural shift.

        That’s why I wrote that short report NINE STEPS TO CHANGING THE “HOW” Because I fear if we go any further away from focusing on the behaviours and direct environment, then we are just going to step even future away from “solutions”.

        Garh!

  31. Bill 32

    Why isn’t alcohol subject to a legally enforced weights and measures regime?

    At present you might buy half a dozen spirits in one place and feel fine. Problem is that there is no way to know how much you actually consumed. None.

    Next time you buy half a dozen of the same spirit, the amount you consume can be radically different.

    Spirits have no legally set volume of liquid per measure. Everything is arbitrary. The measures don’t even have to pour a consistent amount to be used.

    Less of an issue, but an issue nonetheless is that beer glasses come in a variety of sizes. Just because you ask for a pint and are sold a pint doesn’t mean that you actually received a pint.

    All very good for the profit margins and utterly ridiculous in terms of keeping a track of actual consumption.

  32. Jenny 33

    Youth MP kicks National’s kneejerk reaction to youth drinking into touch.

    capcha – reasonable

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