Yesterday I blogged how research showed that the prevalence of youth drinking has in fact been significantly dropping in New Zealand. Today I want to focus on reason no 2 not to increase the purchase age.
Increasing the purchase age will dilute the message not to supply to minors
One of the most important changes proposed in the Alcohol Reform Act is to make it an offence to supply alcohol to minors without parental permission. I supports this new law, as a major flaw in the current law is that (for example) it is currently legal for any adult to supply beer, wine or even spirits to a 14 year old.
I believe we need both a law change and a culture change where it is illegal and “uncool” to supply alcohol without parental permission to those not able to legally purchase it for themselves – just as over the past few decades it has become “uncool” to drink and drive.
But increasing the purchase age to 20 for off licenses, will work against achieving a culture of not supplying alcohol to those who can not purchase alcohol for themselves. 18 and 19 year olds are legally not minors and hence the new law making it an offence to supply alcohol to minors without parental consent will not apply to them. What this means is that if the purchase age is increased it will be legal for a 20 year old to supply alcohol to a 19 year old (who can not legally purchase it), but illegal to supply it to an 18 year old. This will be confusing and work against achieving a culture where no one supplies alcohol to those unable to purchase it for themselves, without parental consent.
The only way to achieve a culture of non-supply is to have the purchase age the same as the age at which a minor becomes an adult – which is 18. That will be consistent and maximise the chance of the new non-supply law being respected.
A purchase age of 20 will encourage a culture of supplying to those under the purchase age. This works directly against the other reforms in the Alcohol Reform Bill to prevent supply to minors.