Youth Council to MPs - Think of Us Tonight

30 August 2012

Feel free to get married, join the Army, take on $40,000 of student debt, but no, that six-pack is too much for you to handle!

This logic is ridiculous, says Wellington's Youth Council - in a last-minute reminder to MPs as they prepare to cast conscience votes tonight on the Alcohol Reform Bill.

"Don't make a knee-jerk decision tonight," says Youth Council Chairman Zoe Doole.

Zoe says increasing the alcohol purchase age to 20 would fail to recognise the fact that at 18 people are adults and are responsible for their own choices and actions.

"It just doesn't make sense to change the age for that reason. And there is such a focus on young peoples drinking that just isn't accurate. Not all young people are binge drinkers and binge drinkers aren't just young people."

The Youth Council made a formal submission on the Bill last year. James Wall-Manning, a Youth Council member, reiterates: "The Government can't expect to try an 18-year-old as an adult in court if they decide 18-year-olds aren't mature enough to be trusted with a bottle of wine from the supermarket."

"You've got to think about the message you're sending to young people," James says.

The Youth Council submission focuses on how culture change that affects everyone is needed, not just passing the buck and hanging the responsibility for change on the next generation.

Zoe says: "Think about the last time you went to a 30th, 40th or 50th birthday event. You can't pin this on young people, and you can't expect social change to start from an age group that are so impressionable. A lot of people I know had their first binge drinking experience at a bbq with their parents, not with other teenagers."

She says the 18-20 split age proposal is something that MPs should consider if they are set on a purchase age change. "The Youth Council can see the pros and cons - but I personally think it could help create the drinking culture change the Government and various health agencies are looking for.

"It would mean young people would be able to experience alcohol in a controlled and safe environment like at a restaurant. It would stop people drinking a bottle of rum and then going to town. That's why there are so many drunk people out - the pre-drinks. You can't get that drunk for the same amount of money in town."

The submission also highlighted a need to look at unexpected outcomes that may result from restricting access to alcohol for young people. "We find it really intolerable that no-one seems to be discussing the obvious, straightforward supply and demand issue.

"Alcohol is a 'socially acceptable drug' in NZ. Limit that supply and young people still want that happy buzz, and they will find it, and it'll be a stronger drug.

Zoe warns: "If the overall age gets raised I believe that for every kid you save being admitted to A&E with alcohol poisoning, you'll get one on E or Speed. If you make hard drugs easier to get hold of than alcohol, I predict that's what will happen."