‘De facto drinking age’ plummeting

The Press 02 August 2008

Want to stop your 12-year-old drinking? Move away from the bottle store. Massey University research, to be published in the Addiction international journal, has found that teenagers who live within a 10-minute drive of a liquor outlet are significantly more likely to drink. More than 1100 Aucklanders aged between 12 and 17 were surveyed on their drinking habits. Almost 520 were drinkers in the past year. Of those, 11 were aged 12, 40 were aged 13 and 76 were aged 14.

University researcher Taisia Huckle said the younger participants were generally supplied with alcohol by their parents or relatives, while the 16 and 17-year-olds had friends buy it for them. The legal age for buying alcohol in New Zealand is 18. The density of bottle stores in a teenager’s neighbourhood was strongly related to how often they drank and how much they drank on each occasion, Huckle said. Liquor Licensing Authority statistics show New Zealand had 35 licensed premises per 10,000 people in 2006, compared with 18 per 10,000 people in 1990. The research suggested restrictions on the number of licensed premises as a low-cost and effective way of reducing alcohol-related harm, such as violence, arrests, drink-driving and car crashes, among young drinkers.