Alcohol issues

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 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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