43.3% of year ten to thirteen students at MAC believe there is an issue with adolescent alcohol consumption in New Zealand. It’s data like this that makes the New Zealand government consider applying new alcohol regulations within our country. Gareth Morgan, leader of The Opportunities Party founded in November last year believes that this “issue” can be solved by an increase in the legal alcohol age and a higher tax. I believe that this should not be done. Even with the age raised, young people will still have access to alcohol and will continue to drink it in large quantities due to the drinking culture that has been alive for many years before them. Punishing the younger generations for behaving like the people that brought them up and then taking away the privileges that these people had is unjust and only makes the desire for it stronger.
But what truly is the issue and how are we solving it? Morgan says: “The data is showing us that in secondary schools six out of ten students are drinking. Nearly half of them consume more than five drinks in each session. And one in five are saying they aim to get drunk. Thats where the problem is.” He believes that since the purchasing age of alcohol was lowered from 20 to 18 years old in 1999, alcohol related harm within young people has risen. His solution is an increase in the purchasing age from 18 to 20 and a 10% tax to increase the already high prices.
Contrary to Morgan’s beliefs, this raise of the alcohol age will not stop young people from accessing alcohol. According to Morgan’s theories, the higher price and tax would increase the “de facto” drinking age from 14-17 to around 18 years old. He believes that because 18 year olds are still within the school community, younger students are able to be connected to them to create an illegal supply of alcohol. However, data from our school proves that 83.3% of the students surveyed legally obtain alcohol from their parents. This proves that increasing the age will not stop the majority of young people from consuming or over-consuming. It also teaches us that we need to think about every option for a solution before we make hasty decisions. We can take this lesson into our lives when making decisions for our future. Next year, or maybe even this year, us year twelve students will have to answer the big question: “what are you going to do when you are older” because next year we are older. To protect our future from becoming a mess like we are all probably slightly terrified about we need to read, research and listen to all the options available to ensure we have a future that we are proud, passionate and successful in. Gareth Morgan should’ve followed this advice when thinking of ways to correct the alcohol issue in NZ. In doing so he could’ve found a solution that directly tackled the problem we have in our country with an effective plan.
Looking back before the alcohol age was lowered in 1999, we can see that there was a supply of alcohol between over twenties and students younger than 18. Therefore, how can we presume that this will not be the case only 18 years after in 2017? Online commenters have stated that they had access to alcohol and were able to enter bars or pubs as young as 14. This tells us that
alcohol has always been an underlying problem in our country and the “issue” Morgan has identified is not with access to alcohol but in the way that we use it.
New Zealand has had a negative culture around alcohol for most of its history. Binge drinking developed in 1919 when the “six o’clock swill’ legislation was introduced after the First World War. Intending to decrease drunkenness and crime and encourage family life, the reality of the new law was an opposite effect. Men would enter the bar at 5pm after work and drink as much as they could before being sent home highly intoxicated only one hour later. When the swill ended in 1967, this new binge drinking culture was ingrained and continued even when people were able to drink until 10pm and is still seen in today’s New Zealand. This tells us that the “issue” we have with alcohol is linked directly to our culture and the way we have been brought up around it instead of the age where we are legally allowed to purchase it. Taking a look at the european culture, we can see that alcohol is introduced into their lives at a younger age. Beer and wine is legal to drink and purchase at the age of 16, while stronger beverages have a legal age of 18. This introduction to alcohol at a younger age normalises drinking and helps to teach the adolescents how to drink responsibly. For example, in Italy many families allow their children to have a glass or part of a glass of wine from a young age with their meals. This creates an environment where people are drinking low percentage alcohol with food, surrounded by responsible people. Leading on from this, these young people grow up with the knowledge and habits of drinking safely and to enjoy their drinks instead of drinking to get drunk. I believe that if New Zealand families inhabited this culture of normalising alcohol in small amounts we would not have the same statistics that we do today. We can learn from this that we must be open to listen and accept other peoples or groups ideas to benefit our own lives. An example of this is in directing. Chris Evans says: “The funny thing about directing is that you have your own opinions, but it’s a collaboration. Directing is a group effort. Even though you might think something works, the smartest thing you can do as a director is try and weigh the opinions of the people around you.” By using this technique he is able to make a film that includes the best parts of everyone’s ideas which makes the film more enjoyable for all. If New Zealand followed this advice, we would be seeing that other countries can provide better solutions to problems that arise, in particular the issue with alcohol.
Another aspect I would like to talk about is taking the option of drinking alcohol away from under 18’s. Is it fair for the young generation to be punished for a culture that they never created?
By doing this I believe that it can only lead to negative outcomes. One example of this could be adolescents drinking without parental permission is dangerous or insecure situations because they feel that if they tell anyone they would be punished. I personally believe that if the young people had access to support from adults on how to drink responsibly they would have a much safer drinking experience. Another example is young people binge drinking more when they finally have access to the alcohol. This is proven by other cultures such as the Italians mentioned before having this access and not abusing it. This makes sense as we can see bingeing in our everyday lives; for example if you haven’t had your favourite food a long time and all of a sudden your pantry is full of it, you can agree that you would eat more than you would if you had not been deprived of it. One last point is an example from the USA where the legal drinking age is 21. In the vast majority of states in America the legal unsupervised driving age is 16, five years before they are allowed to drink. This results in a large group of youth drink driving as they have become accustomed to driving themselves and being responsible for their transport. Therefore, when drinking at the age of 21 there is a higher chance of them driving after. If we were to increase the drinking age in New Zealand we would face the risk of our roads becoming more dangerous because of the same effects not only for the people drinking but for everyone else as well.
In conclusion, I believe that increasing the legal alcohol age from 18 to 20 would not benefit our country and could possibly cause harm. Our binge drinking culture needs to be fixed to stop the issue of adolescent alcohol consumption and to do this we must look at not only what the young are doing wrong but how we have taught them wrong also. We must accept that our way of drinking is not the best way to enjoy alcohol and take it on our shoulders to fix it.