Booze culture: Teach them how to drink

Last updated 05:00 29/12/2012

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The ad tells us, "it's not the drinking, it's how we're drinking". Yet most solutions proposed for how we can address New Zealand's binge drinking culture only target the age kids get access and how much it costs. This is teaching us that access and enjoyment are in no way linked to behaviour.

How are 18-year-olds supposed to learn to act responsibly with booze when all the responsibility for access is placed on the pubs and shops that sell it? The first thing we need young people to learn is that they are responsible for their actions, but we teach them that the nanny state will place all responsibility on the seller.

Returning the age to purchase alcohol to 20 while leaving the age for selling at 18 would relieve this.  Responsible 18 and 19-year-olds could still go to the pub and would be unrestricted from vendors, their actions would dictate if they got away with this or not. Bar owners would be free to police behaviour instead of pedantically checking IDs. Police would not need to arrest every teenager out drinking, just the ones behaving irresponsibly.

Teenagers would gain a two-year period to learn how to drink responsibly. Irresponsible behaviour could be dealt with by extra education to help point them in the right track. A 'safe enjoyment of alcohol' course similar to defensive driving but targeting avoidance of dangerous drinking behaviours brought in as the punishment for teens under 20 caught with booze, on licensed premises or in intoxicated states. Creation of this learning period would also help develop a more healthy relationship between young drinkers and police, showing them the police force is there for more than heavy handed, zero tolerance revenue gathering.

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