Call to raise drinking age loud and clear

Family First Media Release 20 July 2012
Family First NZ is welcoming a call from Canterbury’s health bosses to raise the drinking age to 20, and says that health boards, health professionals, police, family groups, addiction experts, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, leading scientists, and the general public – including young people – are all shouting to politicians to raise both the purchase and the drinking age to 20 in order to protect young people and to save lives.

“The split-age proposal will be confusing and is not supported by frontline workers who are mopping up the mess of alcohol abuse on a regular basis,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Alcohol policies and decisions about a legal drinking age should be firmly based on the health and well-being of New Zealand’s young people. New medical evidence on accident probability, disease and brain development, along with the Child and Youth Mortality Review, and the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, makes it absolutely clear that delaying the age at which teenagers and young people have easy access to alcohol will reduce the level of damage they and society suffer at the moment as well as contributing to their future health and well-being,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman said raising the drinking age to 21 and increasing alcohol prices would be two of the most effective ways to address youth drinking problems.

“We need to send an unambiguous message to young people and society about what is good for young people, and raising both the drinking and purchase age will make it easier for parents and the community to work together to prevent harm to our young people. Parents don’t want a split-age proposal as this simply sends a mixed message,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The politicians should immediately increase the drinking age to at least 20 in the best interests of our young people and society.”

Recent Polls on raising drinking age
* Herald-Digi Poll Raise alcohol buying age: poll More than half of those polled supported a purchasing age of 20 for all types of licensed premises (July 2012)
* Online poll (12,700 votes) Only 24.5% say purchase age should stay at 18 (May 2012)
* Curia Research poll of teenagers 15-21 – When asked “Do you think the age at which someone can purchase alcohol should remain at 18 or be raised to 20?” 33% of those aged 18 and 19 agreed. For those who were aged 20 or 21, 51% supported an increase to 20 (Jan 2012)
* Herald-Digi Poll Big Majority for raising the drinking age An overwhelming majority of people support raising the legal purchase age for alcohol to 20 for bars and liquor shops, including supermarkets, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey. …When asked by the pollsters to choose between three options for the minimum age to buy alcohol, 58.6 per cent preferred 20, which was the age before a law change in 1999. Only 14.5 per cent wanted the status quo of 18, while 25.7 per cent wanted a split age. (June 2011)
* Online NZ Herald poll showing 72% support for their call to raise the drinking age to 21 – over 10,000 people voting (Feb 2011)
* Health Sponsorship Council 78% raising minimum purchasing age to 20 (2010)
* Dominion Post online poll 77% of New Zealanders wanting the legal drinking age put back to at least 20 (2010)
* Police Association poll 75% (2009)
* Research NZ poll (almost 75% – 2009)
* Christchurch Press poll 75% (2009) Of most significance was the Christchurch Press poll which found majority support for raising the drinking age from those aged under 30. Even younger people realize the urgent need for turning back the liberalized laws.
* ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll 71% (2004)


  1. Anyone who thinks that raising the drinking age will solve anything need look no farther than the USA, where the drinking age has been 21 since the 1980s. Having lived there all of my life, I can tell you that it simply does not work. All it does is force drinking underground and make it far more dangerous than it has to be. Just go to any American college campus and you will see that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. Ditto for high school keggers.

    If NZ really want to tackle its legendary drinking problem (which affects all ages, not just youth), it would be best to raise the alcohol taxes, set a price floor, reduce the number of outlets, crack down on drunk driving/violence/disorderly conduct, and improve alcohol education and treatment. But I guess that it’s easier to scapegoat young people for a nation’s problems than to actually solve them.

  2. As for the polls, I believe that Albert Einstein said the following quote:

    “What’s popular is not always right, what’s right is not always popular.”

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