Time to toughen up against binge drinking mentality, says new poll

Sunday Star Times 11/10/2009

ATTITUDES ARE hardening against the country’s drinking culture, with three-quarters of New Zealanders wanting the legal drinking age put back to 20 and nearly two-thirds supporting instant fines for public drunkenness. They say the legal age of 18 is having a negative impact on New Zealand society, according to a new Research New Zealand poll, which comes as the government prepares to rewrite laws governing the consumption and sale of alcohol, and road safety. Research NZ managing director Emanuel Kalafetelis said the new figures will be difficult for the government to ignore as it reforms the liquor laws. The telephone poll of 500 New Zealanders was carried out in September, and Kalafetelis said the results reflected broad concern about the country’s binge drinking culture, especially among younger people.

The Law Commission, which will make its final report to the government in March, has recommended a split alcohol buying age – 18 at bars and restaurants and 20 from shops. The Alcohol Advisory Council also supports increasing the legal age to 20. It argues that the current age of 18 is allowing 16-year-olds to buy alcohol, exposing school age children to alcohol, and has led to more binge drinking and other social problems among teenagers.