Nearly all Police favour raising drinking age
Nearly three-quarters of all police staff favour raising the drinking age back to 20 for both off licence and on licence premises.
The Police Association’s survey of its serving members, conducted in November of last year, asked members whether they supported:
(1) Leaving the drinking age at 18.
(2) Lifting the drinking age to 20 for off licence premises only.
(3) Lifting the drinking age to 20 for both off licence and on licence premises.
Seventy-two percent (72%) of staff supported lifting the drinking age to 20 for both off licence and on licence premises while 18% supported lifting the age to 20 for off licence premises only while 11% favoured the status quo of leaving the drinking age at 18.
70% of all incidents alcohol-related
So, in general terms, nine in every 10 staff favoured raising the age to 20 – hardly surprising given that an estimated 70% of all incidents which police respond to are alcohol-related.
The Sale of Liquor Amendment Act, which reduced the drinking age from 20 to 18, was passed in 1999 when the National Government was last in office. It was passed after a conscience vote by a majority of five (59 to 54).
Various health organisations, including the Ministry of Health, opposed lowering the drinking age. Drinking by teenagers and alcohol related harm is already a major problem in New Zealand, including trends towards binge drinking.
Alcohol -related harm
Overseas experiences of lowering the drinking age have resulted in increases in alcohol-related harm statistics. When some states in the USA raised its drinking age to 21, alcohol-related harm among young people was reduced.
A study by a group of University of Otago researchers, found the proportion of 15-to-19-year-olds involved in alcohol-related crashes has increased significantly since the drinking age was lowered. It also states that teenage crash rates increased in the United States when the drinking age was lowered to 18 in some states in the 1970s and fell when the legal age was lifted to 21.
The culture of binge drinking seems entrenched in New Zealand society and until the attitude towards drunkness changes – in much the same way as it has around smoking – there seems little chance of societal change.
Police Minister Judith Collins recently told Police News that she was not in favour of raising the drinking age back to 20.
“I don’t think there is a case for raising the drinking age. I think if people were drinking in accordance with the age of 18 then there wouldn’t be a major problem. When the age was 20 we had binge drinking. The problem that I see happening is not so much the drinking at 18, it’s the drinking at 14 and 13 and 12 and actually 30 and 40. It’s the abuse of alcohol that’s the real problem and I don’t think it’s different now than it ever has been,” Ms Collins said.
“Isn’t it all about personal responsibility? That’s what we have a lack of in this country, personal responsibility – the requirement that unless the Government tells you, you can’t make up your mind. So, if we were able to re-establish a culture of personal responsibility for your actions and accepting the consequences of them then I think we’d be far better off. How do we do that? We stop having nanny state telling them what they should be doing for a start and stick to what we should be doing,” she added.
Law Commission review
The Law Commission is currently engaged in a comprehensive review of the regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor.
President of the Law Commission Sir Geoffrey Palmer said late last year: “The nature of this project is consistent with the established view that the Law Commission should be given projects that cross the boundaries of several portfolios and involve a significant degree of public consultation. This project certainly meets that criterion as there are more than a dozen departments with a serious interest in liquor issues.”
Sir Geoffrey said the Commission would conduct the review with “vigour and energy.” Sir Geoffrey promised “widespread public consultation with all the interested groups”.
As a former Minister of Justice, Sir Geoffrey was instrumental in the legislative process which led to the passing of the Sale of Liquor Act 1989.