Keep it 18 reason #1

May 29th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Every day for the next couple of weeks I’m going to blog a reason why MPs should not vote to increase the purchase age. It would be wrong on so many levels, I can’t cover it in one post.

The first issue is that youth drinking is dropping, not increasing.

I know this is hard to believe, as the wowsers and the associated media hysteria would have you believe the opposite. But there is numerous research to how this is true.

The Alcohol Liquor Advisory Council do an annual Alcohol Monitor survey of adults and youth, through Research New Zealand. The latest survey is here, for 2010.

In 2006, 53% of youth (aged 12 to 17) were drinkers. In 2010 this had dropped to 32%. That is a massive 40% drop in the prevalence rate for youth drinking. The prevalance of young binge drinkers has also dropped from 21% to 15%. Note though the definition of a binge drinker changed from five or more drinks on any ocassion in last two weeks, to five or more drinks the last time they drank.

Note that in 1997, before the purchase age went up, only 20% of 14 to 18 year olds were non-drinkers. While not the same age range, 68% of 12 to 17 year olds are non-drinkers in 2010. It is impossible to conclude that there is more youth drinking than when the purchase age was 20, and in fact strong evidence that there has been a relative 40% decline in the last four years.

But that is not the only survey. Auckland University’s Adolescent Health Research Group did a survey of around 10,000 secondary school students in 2000 and again in 2007.  Their reports are here. The prevalance of secondary school students who have drunk alcohol in 2000 and 2007 they found to be:

  • Ever drunk alcohol – 82% dropping to 72%
  • Currently drink alcohol – 70% dropping to 61%
  • 13 year olds who have ever drunk – 66% dropping to 51%
  • 14 year olds – 79% dropping to 63%
  • 15 year olds – 88% dropping to 76%
  • 16 year olds – 90% dropping to 83%
  • 17 year olds – 90% dropping to 85%
  • alcohol supplied by an adult not their parents – 25% dropping to 20%
  • have been in a car with a driver who has had 2 or more glasses of alcohol – 29% dropping to 24%

So that is two independent surveys which show secondary school drinking has dropped between 2000 and 2007, and youth drinking has dropped from 2006 to 2010.  I suspect many MPs do not know this. The media have not reported it. But these are the results of research commissioned by ALAC and Auckland University’s Adolescent Health Research Group.

There is a third piece of useful research – this one reported by the NZ Herald:

Police figures released to the Herald show a dramatic drop in the number of under-17s caught drink-driving, from 630 in 2007 to 305 last year.

That is excellent. It shows laws and policies are working.

This is not to say that there are no issues around youth drinking in New Zealand. Of course there are. Just as there are issues around adult drinking. And many of the provisions in the Alcohol Reform Bill target them. But the often cited reasons for increasing the purchase age (especially at off-licenses) has been that it has led to more young people drinking alcohol.

Quite simply this is false. There is absolutely no evidence that the number of young people drinking today is greater than before 1999, and in fact very clear evidence that the number of young people drinking has been declining since 2000.

The issues around binge drinking by some youth will never be solved or even helped by trying to restrict supply to 18 and 19 year olds. If supply was the issue, then there would be more young people drinking – not less. The issue is the culture and supervison.

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23 Responses to “Keep it 18 reason #1”

  1. mikenmild (8,925 comments) says:

    Maybe we should be dropping the purchase age to 17 or 16 to accelerate this decline in youth drinking.

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  2. hj (5,720 comments) says:

    Reason # 5. Sir Douglas Myers yacht carries enough diesel to travel between NZ and Fiji 7 times..

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  3. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    This is outrageous – you are breaking every rule of discussion on the drinking age. Begone with your “Facts” and “Reason” and “Logic”. Young people are evil and it is our god given right to legislate against them even when unsupported by any rational argument.

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  4. hj (5,720 comments) says:

    Reason #6: the entrepreneur behind those colour drinks was worth $600m when he died in a helicopter crash.

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  5. hj (5,720 comments) says:

    Matt Robson Speech:
    “In 1999, liquor retailing was liberalized & purchase age reduced

    When the 1999 Sale of Liquor Act was enacted, much of the public focus was on the purchase age.

    However, a huge lobbying effort had been carried out, over an extensive period of time, by the liquor industry, to ensure that the sale of liquor was liberalized to make liquor available as close to 24/7 as possible.

    The change to 24/7 availability of alcohol meant that Sunday was no longer to be a day of rest for the police or accident and emergency departments. Like the world after 9/11, New Zealand had changed.

    MPs’ were softened-up by lobbyists who also made sure that hospitality at sports and artistic events were liberally offered. Liberalisation was sold as being in tune with the “modern” age of choice and that any harm resulting from alcohol to young teenagers was now an “individual responsibility”.

    Heaven forbid that any connection should be made between aggressive marketing of alcohol with harmful consumption levels. Heaven forbid that it be thought that any meaningful and strong measures should be taken to reduce binge drinking by younger and younger drinkers.

    //
    I’m hot on liquor lobbyists.

    Last year I noticed this woman wandering around Parliament with an official Parliamentary card on her enabling her free access to Parliament and the Beehive, unlike normal citizens.

    The lady, apparently a representative of the Beer, Wine and Spirits Council, had been issued this card on the authority of a former Speaker! ”
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0509/S00265.htm

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  6. Psycho Milt (2,001 comments) says:

    Reason #6: the entrepreneur behind those colour drinks was worth $600m when he died in a helicopter crash.

    The argument presented is thus:

    1. The people at the top of the liquor industry make lots of money from it.
    2. Therefore we must raise the age of purchase to 20.

    Non sequitur

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  7. ross69 (3,645 comments) says:

    > Maybe we should be dropping the purchase age to 17 or 16 to accelerate this decline in youth drinking.

    I’m not sure of the logic there. It’s not illegal for 16 or 17 year old to drink, so reducing the age possibly would not have a great effect.

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  8. ross69 (3,645 comments) says:

    My understanding of the Bill is that 18-year-olds would be able to buy alcohol in licensed premises, but not at off-licence purchases. That in iitself is a joke. Why the difference?

    Interesting that you can join the army and even become an MP at 18….clearly jobs of relatively low importance.

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  9. mikenmild (8,925 comments) says:

    And now that we’re taxing the younger ones more, maybe the purchase age could drop even further?

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  10. mara (642 comments) says:

    As anyone knows, young Kiwis sit around cafes sipping vermouth, animatedly discussing Proust in between arts and philosophy classes. Any A&E staffers will confirm this. Age? what is age ?… pifft.

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  11. Jimbob (639 comments) says:

    When I was at college in the 1970′s, the guidance councillor informed us that the most alcohol you will drink in your lives is between the ages of 18-25 years. He said studies have found this out time and time again. This is just Human nature to indulge in this new fun thing to do when you are young, drink alcohol. Their tolerance is low and they get pissed very easily. I do not know what the solution is, but good luck on finding one.

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  12. Pete George (21,831 comments) says:

    The Alcohol Reform Bill:

    Proposal: raise the alcohol purchase age at off-licence retailers such as liquor stores, dairies and supermarkets.
    Amendment #1: keep the drinking age at 18
    Amendment #2: raise the drinking age to 20 for drinking in pubs and buying alcohol at off-licences.

    Fiddling with the age won’t fix the real problems with binge drinking cultures.

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  13. gazzmaniac (2,270 comments) says:

    have been in a car with a driver who has had 2 or more glasses of alcohol – 29% dropping to 24%

    That could easily include most parents, who might have had two or three glasses of wine at a restaurant or beers at a barbecue before driving home.

    Hate to be nitpicky.

    For the record I don’t think changing the purchase age is going to make any difference.

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  14. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    I’ve heard that kids sussed out the import of this survey long ago and there is a campaign to get kids to put low numbers as a long term effort to more readily access booze. Bloody kids.

    the guidance councillor informed us that the most alcohol you will drink in your lives is between the ages of 18-25 years.

    Hmm, not when you are a young parent and have to knuckle down and provide. I think I made up for it later in life, though ;-)

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  15. wreck1080 (3,533 comments) says:

    A drinking age of 18 is no good.

    NZ culture is to booze until you drop. We simply cannot handle it.

    Simply make it illegal to drink until you are 21. Then, enforce that.

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  16. KevinH (1,129 comments) says:

    “The first issue is that youth drinking is dropping, not increasing.”

    The youth that are drinking are the issue, not the declining numbers. Both TV1 & TV3 have featured items on youth binge drinking in the last couple of days and it was not pretty. Further to that the Police will have to scrap someone off the road this weekend who will be a drink affected youth.

    [DPF: If the issue is how some youth are drinking, then making it illegal for a 19 year old to purchase alcohol will achieve nothing towards that]

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  17. edhunter (435 comments) says:

    the problem isn’t the booze as much as it’s mobile phones & the interweb allowing the youth to organize & gather in bigger groups. Ban cell phones to under 18′s & watch the number of parties getting out of hand drop considerably.

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  18. Northland Wahine (554 comments) says:

    Youth drinking is out of control because there is an apparent lack of consequences.

    Why aren’t these kids severely disciplined by their parents? Oh… Because they are young adults and they have to make their own mistakes, even if that means being scraped off the road, literally. Too many parents want to be their kids “best mate” and wannabe “cool”… A lack of discipline from an early age produces young adults who feel they are answerable to no one.

    Personally, I think a high pressure hose on these drunken louts, no matter what their age or sex, and then left to sit in wet clothing in a cold cell wouldn’t go amiss. Can’t see it happening tho, mores the pity.

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  19. Steve (North Shore) (4,334 comments) says:

    Egghunter is onto it.
    Ban cell phones, or ban something

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  20. Steve (North Shore) (4,334 comments) says:

    “A lack of discipline from an early age produces young adults who feel they are answerable to no one.”
    Teacher and Parent problem. Punish the offenders severely – not just a hosedown and a cell, make them pay for and repair damage.
    Or bring back the the stocks, public humiliation

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  21. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    The survey is weird… see table 8
    in 2005/06 47% of 12-17 are non-drinkers
    in 2006/07 48% of 12-17 are non-drinkers
    in 2007/08 48% of 12-17 are non-drinkers
    in 2008/09 50% of 12-17 are non-drinkers

    but in 2009/10 ** 68% ** of 12-17 are non-drinkers

    A statistic thats changing at 1% per year suddenly changes by 18% in one year. That doesn’t seem credible.

    Look at this example –
    Suppose in 2008/09 there is a 50% non-drinking rate with the 17 year olds being 0% non-drinkers. Then the 12-16 year olds must be 60% non-drinkers to get to 50% overall (and just assume it is split evenly across the groups although it doesn’t matter for the sake of the arguement).

    But when they age a year for the next survey (2009/10) and you assume that the non-drinking rate stays the same for the now 13-17 year olds then the non-drinking rate for the 12 years olds can go as high as 100% without hitting the 68% that is given in the survey.

    Age 2008/09 2009/10
    12 60 100
    13 60 60
    14 60 60
    15 60 60
    16 60 60
    17 0 60
    overall
    average 50 66.66666667
    rate

    It seems really, really improbable that the 68% is real.

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  22. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    And I’d be a bit weary of making comparisons between the two Auckland University’s Adolescent Health Research Group’s surveys because the two samples had quite different survey characteristics.

    In 2001 they had 53% female and in the 2007 study they had 46% female.

    In 2001 they had 18%, 46% and 36% in the low, medium and high NZDep (roughly socio-economic status).
    In 2007 they had 35%, 37% and 25% in the low, medium and high NZDep (roughly socio-economic status).

    Generally, it’s the richer kids who get access to alcohol through their own money, parents and friends i.e. you’d expect the sample with a higher proportion of rich kids to have drunk alcohol.

    That’s why all the high decile schools have problems with after-ball functions and the low decile schools not so much.

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  23. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    The reason that I go looking for “mistakes” in these surveys is that the types of alcohol that young people like are continually increasing in their manufacture (see StatsNZ “alcohol available for consumption” statistics).

    Since companies are in it for a profit they are not going to make stuff they can’t sell.

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