Changing the Kiwi booze culture: Educate our kids

Last updated 05:00 12/12/2012

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The problem with the 'Kiwi booze culture is just that - it is a culture. The only way to change a culture is to change the mindset. Introducing more laws and taxes will only make the idea of alcohol more of a forbidden fruit.

I have worked in Italy where there is no legal drinking age, only a lightly enforced law banning the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 16. It is customary for children to have a glass of wine with a meal and as such, Italians view alcohol as a beverage rather than a mind/mood-altering drug.

I have seen first hand how these kids behave while drinking at the local pub. There was no binge drinking or bad behaviour, even though most of them were 16 or 17. This is in stark contrast to the behaviour of small town Kiwi kids when drinking. I grew up in a small coastal town and underage binge drinking was prolific; most parties I attended ended up with the police being called.

Italy has achieved one of the lowest rates of alcoholism in Europe despite a lack of laws surrounding the use of alcohol. This can be attributed to a strong cultural grounding in the responsible use of alcohol from a young age rather than tight legislation.

I feel that educating children about alcohol and treating it as something to enjoy with a nice meal will go a lot further in addressing the binge culture than increasing taxes and making more laws around alcohol use. This is something that parents are ultimately responsible for, not the government. Parents also need to look at their own drinking habits as children will emulate their behaviour.

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