Impact of reducing the drinking age

August 19th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton quotes a paper by Steven Stillman:

This paper examines the impact of a reduction in the legal drinking age in New Zealand from 20 to 18 on alcohol use, and alcohol-related hospitalisations and vehicular accidents among teenagers. We use both a difference-in-differences approach and a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to examine the impact of the law change. Our main findings are that lowering the legal drinking age did not appear to have led to, on average, an increase in alcohol consumption or binge drinking among 15-17 or 18-19 year-olds. However, there is evidence that the law change led to a significant increase in alcohol-related hospital admission rates for 18-19 year-olds, as well as for 15-17 year-olds. While these increases are large in relative magnitude, they are small in the absolute number of affected teenagers. Finally, we find no evidence for an increase in alcohol-related vehicular accidents at the time of the law change for any teenagers. In an important methodological contribution, we show that one approach commonly used to estimate the impact of changing the legal drinking age on outcomes, an RDD that compares individuals just younger than the drinking age to those just older, has the potential to give misleading results. Overall, our results support the argument that the legal drinking age can be lowered without leading to large increases in detrimental outcomes for youth.

I have previously blogged on how since 2001 there has been huge drops in the number of school students who drink, who drink regularly and who binge drink. We should be celebrating such a great trend, not flagellating ourselves over a manufactured crisis.

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Youth Drinking

August 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I was one of those who strongly opposed the recent attempt to increase the alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20. A hysteria had been generated about drinking in NZ, and especially youth drinking – and many blamed the change in the purchase age in 1999.

The reality is that a number of surveys had shown that youth drinking had declined, not increased, since then. Once these facts got out to MPs, I think it helped the majority of them make the sensible decision not to scapegoat 18 and 19 year olds.

One of the significant pieces of research is a study done by Auckland University every few years of almost 10,000 secondary students. Their 2000 and 2007 studies showed a significant decline in youth drinking during that period.

Well last week the 2012 study came out, and the data was fascinating. It showed beyond any doubt that there had been significant drops in the number of school students who drink, and who drink regularly or binge, since 2000.

schooldrinking

 

That is a seismic shift. It totally blows away the myths about youth drinking having got far worse, based on anecdotal stories and media horror stories.

  • The proportion of students who have drunk alcohol has dropped 25%, or around a third from 2000.
  • The proportion of students who are current drinkers has dropped 25%, just over a third from 2000
  • The proportion of students who drink regularly (weekly) has dropped 9%, just over one half from 2000
  • The proportion of students who have binge drinked (five or more in a session) in the last month has dropped 18%, or just under a half from 2000

Also of interest:

  • The proportion of students who have driven after drinking has fallen from 7.8% to 3.9% – a drop of a half.
  • The proportion of students who have been in a car with a driver who has been drinking has fallen from 27.8% to 18.4% – a drop of one third.

On the non alcohol side:

  • The proportion of students who have smoked cannabis dropped from 38.2% to 23.0%
  • The proportion of students who smoke tobacco weekly dropped from 6.7% to 3.2%
  • The proportion of students who have had sex dropped from 31.3% to 24.4%
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NZ drinking stats

April 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Ministry of Health has just published a survey of NZers and alcohol. The results are interesting, compared to five years ago. I think they show again how exaggerated the moral panic around alcohol has been.

  • The proportion of NZers who have had an alcoholic drink in the last year has dropped from 84% to 80%
  • The proportion of 15 to 17 year olds who had a drink in the last year has dropped from 75% to 59%. This shows how absolutely wrong it would have been to increase the alcohol purchase age to 20. The current age of 18 is leading to fewer young people drinking than in the past.
  • The proportion of adults who have “hazardous” drinking has dropped from 26% to 22% for men and from 11% to 9% for women.
  • The proportion of 18 – 24 year old drinkers who are hazardous drinkers has fallen from 49% to 36%.
  • The more deprived the area someone lives in, the less likely they are to drink, but if they do the more likely they are to be a hazardous drinker. 11% of adults who live in the least deprived areas are hazardous drinkers compared to 18% of adults in the most deprived areas.

These results are very consistent with other surveys in recent years.

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Lower drinking age not led to more youth drinking problems

April 10th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lowering the drinking age to 18 has not led to more binge-drinking or alcohol-related road accidents among young people, researchers have found.

The study, due to be published in an academic journal later this year, shows changes to the minimum purchasing age passed by Parliament in 1999 had no significant impact on the drinking patterns of 15 to 19-year-olds relative to 22 to 23-year-olds between 1996 and 2007.

I am not surprised. The data has been clear for several years. ALAC’s own surveys showed a drop in the youth drinking rate from 53% in 2006 to 2010. Also the number of under 17 year olds drink driving has been plummeting since 2007.

Thank goodness Parliament didn’t give into the moral panic brigade and vote to make it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a bottle of wine.

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The drinking age debate – hopefully now over

August 31st, 2012 at 2:42 pm by David Farrar

This has been the third vote on the so called drinking (actually purchase) age in 13 years. Hopefully it is the last one, so we can focus on changes which will (in my opinion) make more of an impact on reducing harm from alcohol.

I want to blog why this has been such a big issue for me, and for so long. And no it is not as Damien Christie suggested so I can pick up drunk 18 year old girls in bars (that falls into the coincidental side-effects category :-) – note I am kidding).

I regularly get inspired by young adults who have such obviously huge potential and greatness. They literally represent our future – as a country, and as a species.

I spent many years as a venturer leader, working with 14 to 19 year olds. In the absence of being a parent, it is a great experience to see a young person become an young adult, who has their whole life ahead of them, and has so much to contribute.

Just two weekends ago I was blown away by the attitudes and skills of the 750 students at The Big Sing. Awesome. It made me positive about NZ.

In my own business, I’ve had several students work for me in a management and supervisory role. Despite being just 20, 19 and even once 18 they have done great jobs. They think of ways to improve the business I would have never thought of. They come up with great ideas, they do business process improvements without even checking with me. People such as Anna, Kerry, Malia, Jess, Mitch and Steffi actually inspire me. I wish I was that good at their age.

Being involved with Keep It 18 a couple of years ago, I was blown away by the maturity and political skills of Nicola Wood who was just 19, yet had such great passion and determination.

How can you not be inspired by Sam Johnson and the Student Volunteer Army? They did it all by a simple message on Facebook.

While I have not met her, I find Brittany Trilford, who addressed the Rio Earth summit, an inspiring person. I don’t agree with her political views, but she spoke so well.

In the Young Nats, I meet such awesome people who care so much about their country – and will make such a contribution. And despite their age I see people such as Daniel, Sean, Shaun and Megan turn into smooth effective lobbyists on issues that if they formed a company they could probably charge $300/hr :-)

I am a big fan of the student media. Holly Walker stood out a great Critic Editor, and she is now a Green MP. Callum Federic at Critic  has managed to do one of the best interviews of a controversial I have seen. Elle Hunt, formerly of Salient, oozes talent and I have no doubt will become one of New Zealand’s best feature writers.

So when I see young adults I see so many awesome people, and that they represent a great future.

And what I have always hated about having a drinking age of 20, is the awful awful message it sends to 18 and 19 year olds. It is telling them they can not be trusted. That they are not deemed adults. That they should not inspire to greatness, because hell we can’t even trust you to buy a bottle of wine.

That is what has motivated me on this issue. It isn’t for me an alcohol issue or a health issue. It is an issue about allowing young 18 and 19 year old New Zealanders to achieve greatness.

Let me finish with a very pertinent story related to this.

I worked in the late 1990s for PM Jenny Shipley. As part of that job, I traveled with her to all the National Party Regional Conferences. At the Otago/Southland Regional Conference I saw that there was a remit put up by the Young Nationals on lowering the drinking age from 20 to 18.

When I was myself a Young Nat, I had advocated for lowering the drinking age, and was delighted to see the Young Nats were still fighting the good fight. So I went up to them, introduced myself to them and said I was happy to help them with their speeches. The Young Nat moving the remit identified herself and said that would be great. I made a few suggestions about lines to use, and recall as an 18 year old she was unusually stubborn as she refused to use what I thought was the best line (which was fine).

Anyway she successfully persuaded the quite conservative region to vote for lowering the drinking age to 18. And as it happens within 12 months Parliament did vote to lower the drinking age.

That 18 year old Young Nat is now the MP for Auckland Central, who just successfully moved the amendment in Parliament to keep the drinking age at 18.

That reinforces for me why it was and is so important not to treat 18 and 19 year olds as if they are all out of control untrustworthy alcohol abusers. So many of them go on to become awesome people, and do awesome things.

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The alcohol purchase age breakdowns

August 31st, 2012 at 7:18 am by David Farrar

Here is the party breakdown

18 Split/18 Split/20 20
National 20 10 9 20
Labour 16 6 5 7
Greens 13 1
NZ First 8
Maori 1 1 1
Mana 1
ACT 1
United 1
Total 50 18 15 38

So in total 30 National MPs voted for 18 and 29 for 20. The same ratio as on marriage equality (but different MPs). Labour had 22 for 18 and 12 for 20.

The other breakdowns are (based on final vote only):

All MPs 68 for 18 – 53 for 20
Electorate MPs 38 – 32
List MPs 30 – 21
Female MPs 23 – 16
Male MPs 45 – 37
Asian MPs 3 – 2
European MPs 52 – 37
Maori MPs 11 – 10
Pacific MPs 2 – 4
20s MPs – 2-0
30s MPs 10 – 3
40s MPs 17 – 21
50s MPs 28 – 20
60s MPs 11 – 8
70s MPs 1-0
Auckland MPs 25 – 17
Christchurch MPs 9 – 4
Provincial MPs 8 – 14
Rural MPs 14 – 14
Wellington MPs 12 – 4
North Island MPs 49 – 42
South Island MPs 19 – 11
Cabinet Ministers 11-9
All Ministers 14-12
Gay MPs 4-0
Lesbian MPs 1-2
“Straight” MPs 63 – 51
1970s MPs 0-1
1980s MPs 5-3
1990s MPs 13-7
2002 MPs 4-2
2005 MPs 10 – 14
2008 MPs 21 – 13
2011 MPs 14 – 13

So on the 2nd ballot, 18 was the preferred choice of all demographics except Pacific MPs, MPs in their 40s, provincial MPs, rural MPs (were tied), lesbian MPs and MPs who entered in 2005.

The strongest support for 18 came from female MPs, European MPs, MPs under 40, MPs in Wellington and Christchurch, MPs from the South Island, gay MPs and MPs who entered in 2008 or 1990.

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How they voted on the alcohol purchase age

August 30th, 2012 at 11:59 pm by David Farrar

Thanks again to the very efficient Table Office in the Office of the Clerk for the voting details. I’ve combined the votes into the table below.

All 121 MPs voted, which is good. The first vote was 50 for 18, 38 for 20 and 33 for split age. Of the 33 for split age, 18 then voted for 18 and 15 voted for 20 making it 68 to 53.

The four categories of votes are below:

Voted 18

Ardern, Jacinda
Ardern, Shane
Barry, Maggie
Bennett, David
Bennett, Paula
Browning, Steffan
Carter, David
Chauvel, Charles
Clendon, David
Curran, Clare
Dean, Jacqui
Delahunty, Catherine
Dunne, Peter
Dyson, Ruth
Faafoi, Kris
Fenton, Darien
Finlayson, Christopher
Genter, Julie Anne
Hague, Kevin
Henare, Tau
Hipkins, Chris
Horomia, Parekura
Hughes, Gareth
Huo, Raymond
Hutchison, Paul
Jones, Shane
Kaye, Nikki
King, Colin
Lee, Melissa
Logie, Jan
Mackey, Moana
Mallard, Trevor
Mathers, Mojo
McCully, Murray
McKelvie, Ian
Norman, Russel
O’Connor, Simon
Prasad, Rajen
Robertson, Grant
Roche, Denise
Ross, Jami-Lee
Sage, Eugenie
Smith, Lockwood
Tirikatene, Rino
Turei, Metiria
Walker, Holly
Wilkinson, Kate
Williamson, Maurice
Woodhouse, Michael
Woods, Megan

Voted Split then 18

Banks, John
Brownlee, Gerry
Cunliffe, David
Dalziel, Lianne
English, Bill
Goldsmith, Paul
Groser, Tim
Guy, Nathan
Joyce, Steven
Key, John
Lees-Galloway, Iain
Parker, David
Shearer, David
Smith, Nick
Tisch, Lindsay
Turia, Tariana
Twyford, Phil
Wagner, Nicky

Voted Split then 20

Adams, Amy
Borrows, Chester
Clark, David
Coleman, Jonathan
Collins, Judith
Goff, Phil
Goodhew, Jo
Heatley, Phil
Little, Andrew
McClay, Todd
O’Connor, Damien
Sharples, Pita
Street, Maryan
Tremain, Chris
Young, Jonathan

Voted 20

Auchinvole, Chris
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh
Blue, Jackie
Bridges, Simon
Calder, Cam
Cosgrove, Clayton
Flavell, Te Ururoa
Foss, Craig
Graham, Kennedy
Harawira, Hone
Hayes, John
Horan, Brendan
King, Annette
Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam
Macindoe, Tim
Mahuta, Nanaia
Martin, Tracey
Mitchell, Mark
Moroney, Sue
Ngaro, Alfred
O’Rourke, Denis
Parata, Hekia
Peters, Winston
Prosser, Richard
Robertson, Ross
Roy, Eric
Ryall, Tony
Sabin, Mike
Shanks, Katrina
Simpson, Scott
Sio, Su’a William
Stewart, Barbara
Taylor, Asenati
Tolley, Anne
Upston, Louise
Wall, Louisa
Williams, Andrew
Yang, Jian

In a separate post I’ll do an analysis of the voting by demographics.

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The alcohol age ballot

August 30th, 2012 at 5:57 pm by David Farrar

The results of the first ballot was 18/18 had the most but not 50% and split the least so this means a final ballot of 18/18 and 20/20. Results soon.

Yes 18 won with 69 votes. Well done Keep it 18 and especially Moana Mackey and Nikki Kaye for a great result!

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Guest Post: Shaun Wallis on the Alcohol Purchase Age

August 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Shaun Wallis is the NZ Vice-President of the Young Nationals.

Shaun is currently working towards an LLB/BCA (Accounting and Taxation) double degree at Victoria University.

It’s who you are, not how old you are that determines drinking habits. There’s no denying we have a binge drinking culture, and there’s no denying that nearly all of us, young and old have been affected by it in ways large or small.

However, a large number of 18 and 19 year olds that drink responsibly will be scapegoated by the changes to the purchase age. Yet, the New Zealand-wide culture of alcohol abuse will remain…

If we are to tackle binge drinking as a country, we need to change our drinking habits not our drinking age. We know most problem drinkers are over 20. Where is the debate on the harm of drink driving and domestic violence to make New Zealand safer for young and old?

China, the UK, France, Spain and Ireland all have a purchase age of 18. The Germans allow 16 year olds to buy beer and wine, and 18 year olds to buy spirits. Italy has an age of 16 and Denmark allows 16 year olds to buy low-percentage alcohol from stores but not bars, restaurants and discos – and in the sweetest of ironies, the latter reserved for 18 year olds. Yet nearly all of these countries do not experience the abusive culture around alcohol. Fiddling with the purchase age is a red herring, which is why some of our politicians have got it so wrong on alcohol reform.

Better still the drinking habits of young people have improved since we lowered the age from 20 to 18. In 2006, ALAC research found 53% of 12 to 17 year olds were drinkers, but by 2010, only 32% were drinkers. That is a relative 40% drop in the prevalence rate over five years. The age at which young people start drinking has been increasing. In 2006, 35% of young drinkers started before they turned 14. In 2010, it was just 21%. Note this is the proportion of youth drinkers. Of total youth, only 11% start drinking before their 15th birthday. Thus there are positive signs already coming through with our youngest New Zealanders.

So lets focus on the changes in the Alcohol Reform Bill that do matter: It will empower agencies to use measures to regulate licencing responsibly – such as requiring bottle stores near schools to close when school gets out as well as targeting irresponsible supply to minors, requiring parental consent for supply of alcohol to minors based on reasonable grounds. Additionally, it cracks down on those who actively supply to minors, removing their licence/ certificate revoked if prosecuted. We have strong, sensible and practical measures that will address binge drinking across the board, not the age of a few binge drinkers alone.

The split age proposal will push 18 and 19 year olds into more dangerous environments when enjoying a few drinks with friends. No doubt about it – more serious harm and other associated harm occurs in and around licensed premises. Drink spiking, serious assault and sexual harm is more likely to occur in town than in the home of younger drinkers. 1 in 4 people arrested for disorderly behaviour as a result of excess drinking claim that their last drink was on a licensed premises. Even the NZ Law Commission is “not convinced the evidence supports this assumption“.

Why are we telling bar owners and staff to be babysitters of 18/19-year-old drinkers? The State needs to promote the virtues of personal responsibility and self-awareness of alcohol consumption on young drinkers to reduce alcohol abuse. Young drinkers need to understand the risks and manage their own consumption. Yet by limiting the place of alcohol consumption to bars and clubs for 18-19 year olds, the message to control your own drinking is diminished and babysitter functions are imposed on pubs and clubs.

Young rural New Zealanders will be unfairly affected by changing the purchase age. In provincial New Zealand, the days of the local pub have gone, with significantly fewer on-licensed premises. Rather than enjoy a few drinks at home with mates, 18 and 19 year old Kiwis in rural areas will be forced to jump in a car and drive a fair distance to the nearest licensed premises. Given nearly all New Zealanders overwhelmingly see drink driving as extremely dangerous and not acceptable, why would we want to contradict progress?

Lastly, there is a strong rights argument for the case to keep the purchase age at 18. At its most simplest form, if we deem 18 and 19 year olds old enough to move away from home, take a student loan out or start to learn a trade, manage their power, rent, internet, groceries and so on, surely they’re old enough to manage their own drinking habits? We need to promote more personal responsibility, and hence a targeted culture change campaign aimed at energizing individuals to take personal responsibility for their alcohol habits would be much, much more effective at delivering real change than just tinkering with the purchase age.

In sum, changing the purchase age will not have the desired effect of many in favour that seek to achieve. It won’t affect the culture. It won’t change behaviour. It’ll unnecessarily ping the vast majority of sensible 18 and 19 year olds, and I believe Parliament will be called upon again to vote on the purchase age in the future. Let’s not waste our opportunity to break this cycle by focusing on the changes we need to make and stop flogging the age. We can draw circles around the age or we can start making effective changes through good laws and quality education that changes habits and turns our drinking culture around.

The vote/s will be at 5.30 pm today. I really do hope they vote to keep it 18, as we can then move on from this issue, and focus on the other issues around alcohol. If it is increased in part or full to 20, it will remain a contentious issue as young New Zealanders will never accept that they can be working, married, raising kids at 19 but not able to buy wine at the supermarket.

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10 reasons why making it illegal for 18 and 19 year olds to purchase alcohol is the wrong thing to do

August 28th, 2012 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

1 – A split age will encourage more 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 support 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 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 17 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.

2 – Fewer youth are drinking now than when the purchase age was 20

ALAC’s annual alcohol monitor survey shows that in 1997 80% of 14 to 18 year olds were drinkers. The latest 2010 survey shows only 32% of 12 to 17 year olds are drinkers. This is a massive drop.

The age ranges have not been entirely consistent over the years, but a breakdown of the 2010 research shows that only 53% of 15 to 17 year olds are drinkers – still a massive reduction from 80% in 1997.

The prevalence of youth drinking is dropping, not increasing. In 2006 ALAC research found 53% of 12 to 17 year olds were drinkers, and amongst the same age group it is 32% in 2010. That is a relative 40% drop in the youth drinking prevalence rate since 2006.

Many people have said that the drop in the purchase age in 1999 has led to more under 18 year olds drinking. This is clearly false on the ALAC research, and in fact the opposite has happened.

Also the age at which young people start drinking has been increasing. In 2006, 35% of young drinkers started before they turned 14. In 2010, it was just 21%.

The ALAC research 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 drop from 70% to 61%.  Two highly reputable independent pieces of research have both found that fewer young New Zealanders are drinking than in the past.

3 – Most alcohol is supplied by parents or family members

60% of youth moderate and binge drinkers say their last drink was at home, or a relative’s home. Only 27% say they were at a friend’s house. Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds for allegedly being the source of alcohol to under age drinkers, is not bourne out by the facts.

The Auckland University survey found only 20% of secondary school students had alcohol supplied by an adult  who is not their parents – a drop from 25% in 2000. Blaming adult 18 and 19 year olds on school age students drinking is unfair and untrue.

4 – A split 18/20 age will increase risks for young women

The proposed split age of 18 for off-licenses and 20 for on-licenses (while preferred to a 20/20 age) will push 18 and 19 year olds who wish to have a drink to go into town, rather than have a drink at home. Far more violence and crime occurs in town, than at people’s homes. 18 and 19 year old women especially will be at risk of greater sexual assaults, if they are prevented from being able to legally purchase alcohol to drink in the safety of their own home.

5 – 18 is the age of majority

18 and 19 year old men and women are required to register on the electoral roll, and can stand for election to Parliament or local authorities.

The MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, was elected to the Manukau City Council at the age of 18. He did a sufficiently good job to be re-elected in 2007, and then elected to the new Auckland Council in 2010, and to the House of Representatives in 2011.

It seems absurd that a young adult such as Jami-Lee could serve on the Manukau City Council, actually help determine and vote on local alcohol policies for the city, yet be legislatively banned from being able to buy a bottle of wine at a supermarket on the way home from a Council meeting.

Can an MP justify voting in favour on Wednesday in favour of 16 year old gay and lesbian couples being able to get married at 16, yet vote on Thursday against them being able to purchase alcohol until they are 20?

6 – Increasing the purchase age will encourage disrespect for the law

It is naïve to think that 18 and 19 year olds who are working or studying will not purchase or acquire alcohol. Of course they will. In fact it will be legal for others to acquire it for them, which will make the law somewhat farcical. Under the split age proposal, it will be illegal to sell alcohol to an 18 or 19 year old, but legal to supply it to them for free!

Laws which are widely broken or worked around, lower overall respect for the law. The United States has a higher purchase age than New Zealand, and this law is so widely broken that even Jenna and Barbara Bush broke the law – despite their father being President of the United States.

7 – There is no evidence that a split age will work

Even the groups that support increasing the purchase age to 20 say that there is no evidence that a split age will work in reducing alcohol related harm. It will simply send a confusing mixed message about whether or not 18 and 19 year olds can purchase alcohol.

No other country in the world has a split purchase age, It is an untested experiment, with no scientific basis to it. It sends out a contradictory message on the appropriate age to purchase alcohol.

8 – A split age will discriminate against rural areas

Banning 18 and 19 year olds from being able to purchase alcohol in off-licenses will have a greater impact on those in rural areas. On-licenses are common in urban areas, but many of those who live in rural areas do not have a nearby on-license. Hence this means that an effective different purchase age will apply in urban and rural New Zealand.

9 – It’s about the culture

An increase in the purchase age does nothing to address the real issue of the New Zealand drinking culture. You can’t get a change in the culture by making it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a bottle of wine. The culture change comes about by engaging with drinkers, and making unsafe drinking behaviour unattractive.

Professor Doug Sellman was quoted in this week’s Sunday Star-Times as saying “The fact is that less than 10 per cent of the 700,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand are under 20″.  Alcohol issues in New Zealand need a culture change across the board. Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds for the problems caused by heavy drinkers is unfair – especially as fewer than 10% of the heavy drinkers are youth.

10 – Drink Driving

Youth drink driving has been dropping massively in the last few years. It dropped by just over 50% from 2007 to 2011 amongst under 17 year olds, and in the last year dropped 52% amongst all teenagers.

The split age proposal may encourage more drink driving amongst teenagers. 18 and 19 year olds will not be able to purchase alcohol to drink at home. They will only be able to purchase alcohol by going into an on-license. This is highly likely to lead to more teenagers then driving home after they have been drinking – especially in more rural areas.

Please do the right thing and vote to keep the purchase age at 18.

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Keep it 18 reason #4

August 16th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Most alcohol is supplied by parents or family members

The latest ALAC survey found 60% of youth moderate and binge drinkers say their last drink was at home, or a relative’s home. Only 27% say they were at a friend’s house. Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds for allegedly being the source of alcohol to under age drinkers, is not bourne out by the facts.

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Keep it 18 reason #3

August 15th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Reason 1- Youth drinking is dropping, not increasing

Reason 2 – Increasing the purchase age will dilute the message not to supply to minors

Reason 3 is a split 18/20 age will push young drinkers into town

The proposed split age of 18 for off-licenses and 20 for on-licenses (while preferred to a 20/20 age) will push 18 and 19 year olds who wish to have a drink to go into town, rather than have a drink at home. Far more violence and crime occurs in town, than at people’s homes. 18 and 19 year old women especially will be at risk of greater sexual assaults, if they are prevented from being able to legally purchase alcohol to drink at home.

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Why it is wrong to raise the purchase age

August 6th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An advertisement showing why it would be wrong to raise the purchase age, ny Keep It 18.

The release says:

Keep It 18 has released a video highlighting how ridiculous it will be if MPs vote to increase the purchase age for alcohol from 18 to 20.

The video, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ9K1-OY6Zs, shows a 19 year old couple getting married, and then at the reception the happy couple having to drink chocolate milk for the wedding toast.  

“It is ridiculous that MPs could vote for a law which says a 19 year old is not mature enough to buy a bottle of wine from a supermarket, yet is old enough to get married” said Sean Topham, Spokesperson for the Keep It 18 campaign. “Our video shows how ludicrous such a situation would be”.

“The proposed increase in the purchase age will actually encourage greater supply of alcohol to those who can’t purchase it for themselves – contradicting one of the primary aims of the bill, which is to reduce supply to minors.”

“It is a myth that youth drinking has increased since the purchase age was lowered to 18. In fact, the prevalence rate of under 18s who drink has dropped 40% in the last five years, according to ALAC’s annual alcohol monitor surveys. The Auckland University’s Adolescent Health Research Group survey of 10,000 secondary school students in 2000 and 2007 also found that the prevalence rate of youth drinkers has dropped significantly since 2000.

“The number of young people caught drink driving has also dramatically dropped, by 50% from 2007 to 2009 and a further 50% in the last year.”

“This shows there is no sound reason to discriminate against 18 and 19 year olds and treat them as minors. We urge MPs to vote for sensible measures to reduce harm caused by alcohol, and to resist the populist temptation to scape-goat 18 and 19 year olds.” concluded Sean Topham.

Also a good read is this op ed in the ODT by ACT on Campus President Hayden Fitzgerald:

Thirty years ago, a four-pack of New Zealand-made beer for $20 would have been unsaleable.

Who would have chosen such poor value over a swap-a-crate of draught beer or a cask of wine?

Today, such boutique offerings are not unusual.

If the products people purchase are any indication of where our drinking culture is headed, the role of alcohol advertising has been misunderstood.

The volume of alcohol sold per capita has actually decreased since the 1989 reforms.

For a start, alcohol advertisers do not necessarily want consumers to drink more alcohol.

What they really want is to increase their own profits.

It is this dynamic which explains why the amount drunk per capita has declined, the amount of advertising has increased, and the sophistication of alcohol offerings has grown during the past 30 years.

Yep.

It is no coincidence drinking culture has become more sophisticated while advertising has been liberalised.

How do you introduce a classier European equivalent to the New Zealand market if you cannot sing its praises to the punters?

What local brewer or vintner will respond by innovating if they are not able to tell consumers what they have done?

Alcohol advertising restrictions will make it that much harder for the boutique start-ups to enter the market.

Those who remain will find the profits are back at the lowest common denominators of price and volume.

A good warning.

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Youth drink-driving

August 4th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been stunned but delighted by the drop in arrests for drunken driving by teenagers – almost a year after the zero alcohol limit was brought in for the under-20s.

Figures released by police under the Official Information Act show that in first nine months of the new law coming into force on August 7 last year, 3091 youths aged 15-19 were arrested for drink driving.

The figure for the 12 months before the law change was 6414 – tracking towards an ‘‘absolutely brilliant’’ change, acting national manager road policing Superintendent Rob Morgan said.

Police had expected the introduction of the law to lead to more offences overall for young drivers, but it appeared as if the law change was acting as a deterrent  ‘‘… certainly these results are very encouraging,’’ he said.

This is excellent. It shows the value of laws that target correctly.

In fact youth drink driving has been declining for several years, which shows that the age of purchase being 18 is not a barrier to safer roads.

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Keep it 18 reason #2

May 30th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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.

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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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Culture change is what is needed

May 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Binge drinking could follow smoking in losing its fashionable status, says a Wellington emergency department consultant hoping a sobriety campaign will help reduce alcohol-related harm.

Hello Sunday Morning encourages those wanting to take a break from alcohol to blog on the booze-free experience. The project has already attracted hundreds of followers around New Zealand and is today being given a push with its national launch in Auckland.

Wellington Hospital emergency department consultant Mark Hussey said it “certainly sounds like a good idea” and thought the initiative may lead to binge drinking becoming “uncool” in the same way campaigns against smoking had worked, especially with young people.

This is exactly the sort of initiative that we need. It is a culture change among youth that will see a reduction in harm from alcohol.  It is not making it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a bottle of wine.

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US drinking age and road deaths

May 9th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Thomas Lumley at Stats Chat blogs:

In an earlier post I looked at male youth suicide rates in the US before and after the drinking age was raised in July 1984, and said that expecting a decrease in road deaths made sense.  It does make sense, but it seems that it didn’t happen in the US.  …

The graph shows road deaths per 100,000 people by age group (from CDC), and there isn’t anything prominent that happens in 1984 or 1985.  The pattern is pretty much the same for ages 15-19, 20-24, and 25-34.  The younger two groups would have been affected by the law (with its supporters usually arguing that the youngest of the groups is the real target) and the oldest group would not have been affected.    You can think of all sorts of explanations for why a difference might not have been seen (for example, the US is bad at detecting and deterring drunk drivers), but the data has to be disappointing to people who want a change in the drinking age.

The move in New Zealand to go to a split age may, in my view, increase the road toll. Why? Well 18 and 19 year olds will no longer be legally able to purchase some alcohol at an off-licence and take it home to drink. They will be forced to head out to bars to drink.

Now in Wellington this might not lead to an increase in drink driving, as it is such a compact city. But in Auckland it could well do so, and in more rural areas, I think is highly likely to. A split age will send out some bad incentives.

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Debunking the drinking age argument

May 7th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Last week someone claimed that the increase in the drinking or purchase age in 1999 lead to more young people dying, and killing themselves. I do not have access to the long-term suicide stats, but do have the long-term youth mortality states (and suicide is the leading cause).

As one can see, the youth mortality rate has continued to drop since the late 1990s. Those advocating to raise the age seem to want to blame everything from climate change to youth suicide on it.

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Alcohol issues

May 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

Teenagers aged under 18 will need the express consent of their parents through a text message or a phone call to have a drink at a party under the latest alcohol curbs planned by the Government.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said yesterday that the Alcohol Reform Bill would be back in Parliament to pass its final stages next month.

MPs are already lining up to back an amendment to the bill which would raise the purchase age to 20, and Ms Collins said she would also introduce a Government amendment in the final stages.

The bill, which passed its second reading last year, would have required adults giving liquor to minors to understand “on reasonable grounds” that there was parental consent.

Ms Collins said the Government now wanted to “tighten that up” so that “express consent” was required.

“That’s a text or a phone call or a discussion with a parent,” she said.

“Before someone supplies your 16-year-old or your 14-year-old with alcohol, they [will have to] tell you.”

I support that change, and the new restriction overall on supply of alcohol to minors. It is silly that it is absolutely legal at the moment to give a bottle of vodka to a 14 year old.

Another new measure being planned is to ban the sale from off-licences of “ready to drink” mixes with an alcohol content of more than 6 per cent.

The Government has previously suggested a 5 per cent limit, but concerns were raised that might not be possible because of international trade rules.

Ms Collins said RTDs were a legitimate alternative to badly mixed drinks, but there was growing concern about drinks with high alcohol content that were also very sweet.

“It’s better than having people drinking straight vodka, or doing their own mixes and getting it all wrong, or getting their drinks spiked.

“There’s loads of reasons to have RTDs but there is also a real reason to look at the highest level ones and where they’re being sold.”

RTDs are much better than people doing their own mixes. The average self-mix is around 13% alcohol, while the average RTD is 6.5% (around half are 5% and half are 8%).

Those who drink the 8% RTDs atend to be older drinkers and they specifically like the taste of them. If they can not get an RTD stronger than 5%, then many will substitute to spirits and self-mixes. A 6% limit will do less harm than a 5% limit, but my belief is that even a 6% limit will actually increase harm from alcohol, due to the substitution effect.

The proposed “split age” would restrict alcohol sales at off-licences such as supermarkets to 20-year-olds while leaving it at 18 for licensed premises such as bars and restaurants.

National MP Tim Macindoe has put up an amendment calling for the purchase age in all cases to go up to 20, while his National colleague Nikki Kaye has put up an amendment for it to stay at 18.

An increase in the purchase age will in fact undermine the new law restricting supply to minors. It is a bone headed move, based on emotion.

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More bullshit claims

April 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s high youth death rate among developed nations has been blamed in part on its alcohol-buying age of 18.

A leading suicide researcher, Dr Annette Beautrais, of Auckland University, said this “relatively low minimum drinking age” was a more likely explanation than the better methods New Zealand has over some countries for recording and investigating deaths.

Oh bullshit. Why can’t people check the facts out. The prevalance of young people drinking has in fact been significantly dropping.

In 2006 the annual ALAC survey found 53% of 12 to 17 year olds were drinkers. In 2010 this figure had dropped to 32%. That is in fact a 40% relative reduction in the prevalance rate of youth drinking.

And if you go back to before the age dropped from 20 to 18, in 1997, 80% of 14 to 18 year olds were drinking alcohol despite it being illegal to purchase it. There is no direct data for the the same age range today, but the closest we have is 53% of 15 to 17 year olds were drinkers in 2010. Overall there looks to be fewer minors drinking today than when the purchase age was 20, and beyond doubt the rate has fallen massively since 2005.

Why does the Herald run a story that gives one side of the argument only, and  no dissenting views?

For the avoidance of doubt, of course alcohol is a factor in the suicides of some young people.  But that is a hugely different issue to whether or not the purchase age being 18, not 20, has changed the rate of youth suicides.

The same ALAC research incidentally found 60% of youth binge drinkers had their last drink at home or a family member’s home, and only 27% were at a friend’s house.  So the major supplier of alcohol to young drinkers tends to be family members, not 18 and 19 year olds.

The law change that is needed is to make it an offence to supply alcohol to minors, except with parental consent and in a responsible fashion. That is in the Alcohol Reform Bill, and should be supported strongly as a measure which will make a difference.

Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds, and blaming them for youth suicides is not the answer, and is quite reprehensible.

Oh just spotted this at the end of the article:

Dr Beautrais said that, on its own, the split age was unlikely to have much impact on the suicide rate.

Oh my God. So even the source of the story says this, yet the headline is “Lower drinking age blamed for high rate of youth deaths”.

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Youth and Alcohol

September 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Certain lobby groups and MPs would have you believe that since the alcohol purchase age was lowered in 1999, many more young people are drinking alcohol.

But an Auckland University study of 9,000 high school students has found the following changes from 2001 to 2007:

  • Students who have never drunk alcohol increased from 18% to 28%
  • Students who do not currently drink alcohol increased from 30% to 39%
  • Of students who currently drink alcohol, those who have not had a drink in the last four weeks went from 22% to 24%
  • Of students who drink alcohol, the proportion saying friends gave it to them dropped from 62% to 53%
  • Those asked for ID when purchasing rose from 44% to 61%
  • Those who were a passenger with a driver who has had over two drinks dropped from 29% to 24%

So remind me again why MPs are lining up like lemmings to increase the purchase age to 20?

The survey does show some negative increases, such as the proportion who binge drink, but that reinforces why the approach should be to target problem drinkers, not criminalise every 18 and 19 year old in the country.

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NZ Herald on Drinking Age

July 4th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

When an overwhelming majority of people say they want the legal purchasing age for alcohol raised to 20, there is reason to pay attention.

Attention may be, but not deference.

It is no surprise that lost of people who are not aged 18 and 19 want to take rights away from 18 and 19 year olds. Just as once upon a time lots of men did not think women should have the vote.

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Purchase age not drinking age

June 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

God it annoys me when people go on about the purchase age for alcohol, and confuse it with a drinking age.

The latest is the Chair of Kings.

Let us be very clear. NZ has no drinking age at present. It is absolutely legal for 12 year olds to drink spirits. I think this is crazy, and why I support there being a drinking age. And at present it is also legal for an adult to give a 12 year old a bottle of spirits.

The Government’s proposals go part of the way towards having a drinking age. They make it illegal to supply alcohol to someone under 18 without parental consent. However they don’t make the actual consumption of alcohol without consent an offence.

The purchase age is the age at which you can purchase alcohol. It is currently 18. When a 16 or 17 year old gets into trouble with alcohol, it has nothing to do with the purchase age and everything to do with the lack of a drinking age – or at the least the lack of a law preventing supply to those under 18.

What happened at Kings has nothing to do with the purchase age of alcohol being 18. The dead boy is aged 17. We won’t know until the Coroner reports what happened that night, but I have heard from multiple people that this was not primarily an alcohol issue. I am amazed the Chair of Kings is raising what is arguably a red herring.

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But what about the cost

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett in the NZ Herald reports:

A report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser says raising the drinking age to 21 and increasing alcohol prices are two of the most effective ways to address youth drinking problems.

Professor Sir Peter Gluckman yesterday released a paper on social problems facing young people, which Prime Minister John Key requested after the death from alcohol poisoning of King’s College student James Webster in May last year.

Si Peter’s report is here.

I’d make the initial point that the tragic death of James Webster would not have been affected by a change in the alcohol purchase age. That is very clear.

Secondly I’d concede that raising the drinking age and increasing the price of alcohol is likely to reduce harm from alcohol. If you made the purchase age 25 and made the cost of a glass of beer $20, then there would be far less harm from alcohol.

Likewise if you really wanted to lower the road toll, you’d engineer all cars so they can not go faster than say 40 kms/hr.

So why don’t we do these things? Because while it reduces harm for some people, it also imposes costs and removes choice from other people.

The 318 report from Sir Peter is a very useful piece of work. You need good science to tell you what may and may not work. But the science is only an input.

Science could tell you that if we banned fast food outlets from New Zealand, we might be a healthier country. If we passed a law making it mandatory for people who weigh over 95 kgs to go to the gym twice a week, then we might also be a healthier country.

But most people don’t want to live in a country like that. They want a country where responsible people are not punished for the decisions of irresponsible people.

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