Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Listen Up, Kiwis--Keep It 18

New Zealand will vote on whether or not to raise the drinking age to 20 sometime in the next week or two.  It will be a conscience vote rather than a bloc vote, so there is no reason to vote along party lines.  We at Twenty-One Debunked have the following things to say to the New Zealand Parliament:

Take it from us in the USA, where the drinking age has been 21 since the 1980s.  We can honestly tell you that raising the drinking age does NOT and will NOT work. All it does is force drinking underground and make it 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.

Next time someone claims that lowering the drinking age to 18 in 1999 created a "crisis" in problematic drinking among teens and young adults that wasn't there before, be sure to show them this link to set them straight.  Long story short:  from 1996/1997 to 2006/2007 it did not significantly increase among 15-24 year olds, but did increase among people over 25.  But I guess it's easier to scapegoat young people for adult problems rather than actually try to solve them.

Listen, if NZ really wants to tackle its legendary drinking problem, which affects ALL ages and not just young people, it would be best to raise the alcohol taxes, set a price floor, reduce alcohol outlet density and advertising, crack down hard on drunk driving/violence/disorderly conduct, and increase alcohol education and treatment.   You may also want to lower the BAC limit for drunk driving to 0.05 to match Australia as well.  But leave the drinking age alone, and actually enforce it better and close the loopholes.   Keep the drinking age 18, but require ID from anyone who looks under 30, and require TWO forms of ID for anyone who looks under 18, period. Crack down hard on those who buy for minors, and stores that sell to minors (or don't check ID).  And close the loophole that allows furnishing to minors under 18 other than one's own children. 

Also, the split age proposal is still problematic because allowing 18-19 year olds to buy alcohol only in bars and not off-premise in stores would encourage drunk driving among that age group, particularly in rural areas with inferior public transport infrastructure and taxis that cost an arm and a leg.  (Remember, this is not Sweden we're talking about.)  If you want to reduce the availability to those under 18 from older friends and strangers, simply enforce the existing laws better and close the furnishing loopholes, full stop.  Alternatively, you could consider putting a cap on the amount of alcohol that an 18-19 year old can purchase at the store in the same day (i.e. no kegs/cases/large liquor bottles, and no more than one off-premise transaction of any kind per day) to discourage purchasing for minors (and high school keggers) while still allowing 18-19 year olds the ability to buy alcohol for personal use legally.

Most importantly, a cultural change is desperately needed in New Zealand across the board as far as alcohol is concerned.  Take a look at other countries with a drinking age of 18 or even lower, especially southern Europe.  You can learn a lot from them.  They generally do not fetishize alcohol by treating it as a major rite of passage. They treat it as a neutral substance that can be good or bad depending on how it’s used, and all drinkers are held to the same high standards of conduct regardless of age. Alcohol-related misbehavior is seen as a conscious choice, and (unlike in predominantly Anglo-Celtic cultures like NZ) alcohol is never accepted as an excuse for doing anything that would be considered unacceptable when sober. As a result, overindulgence and lager-lout behavior is decidedly “uncool” over there, rather than glamorized like it is NZ and other Anglo-Celtic countries.  Remember that every attempt to create a culture of abstinence has failed miserably (six o'clock swill, anyone?), so it's best to aim for a culture of moderation instead.  It's what Aristotle would have wanted. 

Finally, if you feel that that 18-20 year olds are not mature enough to be trusted with a beer, how can you possibly trust them with a gun, voting, raising kids, or any of the other numerous rights and responsibilities of adulthood? If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar. 'Nuff said.

1 comment:

  1. It's disappointing to read that New Zealand's Parliament will vote on raising the drinking age to 20. It's problematic that New Zealand has switched its drinking in the past 15 years. I got that information from Ajax the Great's blog. That shows that oppression might be coming against young women and young men in the near future. The drinking age in New Zealand should be 18. If New Zealand wanted to decrease problems related to alcohol, then Ajax the Great's proposals should be up for a vote in Parliament. As Ajax the Great said, raising the drinking age won't solve problems.