Media Release – 29 August 2012
Alcohol purchase age debate
The Law Commission recommended a purchase age of 20 years
along with other key changes
In 2009/2010, the New Zealand Law Commission was directed by government to undertake a comprehensive review of the
liquor laws, which included an assessment of alcohol-related harm.
At the outset the LC proposed a number of measures, amongst which was a new split purchase age; ie raising the age of
purchase to 20 years for off-licences, while retaining 18 years as the purchase age for on-licences.
Following careful consideration of the international scientific literature, the best New Zealand data available, and the
views of New Zealand’s experts, the Law Commission came to a final conclusion that the purchase age be raised back up to
20 years for both on- and off-licences, but recommended this to Parliament in the context of a range of other major
Age of purchase was one of a number of key elements proposed by the Law Commission, but not the sole highlight of a new
Bill, as is being acted out at present.
“A number of reinforcing measures are required to change the damaging drinking culture and raising the purchase age is
one of them” said Professor Jennie Connor.
“Without a range of reforms which include dealing with the broad availability and accessibility of ultra-cheap alcohol
and the relentless marketing and advertising of alcohol, just changing the purchase age will have diminished impact”
added Professor Doug Sellman, another medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ.
“We hope that Members of Parliament will base their decision on the carefully considered evidence assembled by the Law
Commission and return the purchase age back up to 20 years”.
“Teenage binge drinking in New Zealand is causing an enormous amount of harm and since the age of purchase was lowered
in 1999 the damage to young people, particularly young women has been significant”.
“There are long-term effects of drinking heavily when young, as well as what happens at the time”
“New Zealand data show that these harms include increased alcohol-involved traffic crashes and increased
hospitalisations for alcohol use disorders, alcohol poisoning, and assault.”
“The National New Zealand Alcohol Surveys are the longest running comparable alcohol survey series in New Zealand,
conducted by researchers at the Centre for Social Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Massey University.”
“New analyses of these data spanning 1995 to 2011 show significant increases in the frequency of binge drinking among
young women, especially since the lowering of the purchase age, with larger volumes being consumed on these occasions.”
“If the Government was really serious about the harm alcohol is inflicting on our young, then rather than insinuate
blame on them by solely focussing on the age of purchase debate, they would bring to Parliament reforms involving
pricing, marketing and accessibility of alcohol”.