There’s a lot of chat at the moment about the drinking age and simple straw polls on the position of various MPs.
I want to throw some thoughts into the mix- the kind that get missed in a yes or no answer.
I believe we have a problem with the way we drink in New Zealand. I have never thought politicians alone can solve this issue, but we certainly have a role to play.
But the “we” element in all of this is important. For far too long we have focused on one particular set of people as both the catalyst of our problems and the source of all of our solutions – the young.
It’s easy to see how this happens. Many of us drink to varying degrees, but don’t wish to assume that we are part of the problem (and many will not be). The default option can become to apportion blame to other groups, and that often includes young people. And it’s easily done. We can all fall back on personal or anecdotal evidence of some young people, well under the age of 18, drinking in public and in private spaces, sometimes to excess.
But much of this is already happening outside of the laws we currently have. And I’m also sure a good chunk of people who support an age change are not doing so because its only 18 and 19 years olds (the group effected by a change in the minimum age of purchase) they see as the problem. So lets start being honest.
This is not about young people, this is about all of us.
Every time I have asked young people about alcohol in their lives, they talk about what they see around them; not just of the behaviour of their peers, but of adults, parents, caregivers. The ones who we know through research are supplying young people with alcohol a majority of the time, the ones who have been part of setting and maintaining New Zealand’s approach to drinking, and who are statistically almost as equally likely to drink to get drunk as a young person is.
That is why my position on alcohol reform is this: I support the age staying at 18 because I don’t believe shifting the age addresses our fundamental issues.
If a split age is the compromise that will at least stop a blanket increase, then I’ll consider that. But I’d much rather consider a comprehensive package of reforms that finally acknowledges that this is our collective problem, not just the problem of our ‘youff’.