NZ Herald Jun 2, 2011
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. The Improving the Transition paper comes as alcohol law reforms making their way through Parliament will require MPs to decide whether to increase the alcohol purchasing age to 20 or create a ‘split age’ of 18 in pubs and on-licences and 20 for off-licence sales. Mr Key favours the split age. The Gluckman report will put more pressure on him to go further in toughening up the alcohol laws – his Government is already under pressure for refusing to move on Law Commission alcohol reform recommendations to increase alcohol taxes and lower the drink driving limit for adults. In a chapter on teenage drinking, Christchurch Health and Development Study academics Professor David Fergusson and Professor Joseph Boden said the most effective reforms would be a “substantial rise” in the drinking age to 21, higher alcohol prices and more limited availability.