There is a movement at the moment that the New Zealand drinking age should be raised to 20 from the current level of 18. Now, the Law Commission is suggesting that, along with over 100 more suggestions. While I haven’t read (and don’t really intend to) the suggestions, I do know that one of them includes the increase of the drinking age to 20. I am in support of the Keep It 18 campaign.
Let’s think logically here. If New Zealand were to change the law now so that any person 18 or 19 now cannot drink, there is going to be serious problems with binge drinking. These people will get their hands on alcohol. All it means is people who do get alcohol will drink as much of it as possible, because there might be a long time between drinking sessions. That would cause even more problems, because people who are drinking responsibly now will start drinking irresponsibly, and people who are already drinking irresponsibly will not care about the law change. This will simply increase the number of people who are binge drinking, causing even more of the problems that we are trying to solve.
Another problem is the inequity of the situation. Someone can go to war for their country when they turn 18, come back in 18 months and not be able to drink with the people he has killed others with. If you are responsible enough to have a high powered gun in a warzone, you surely are responsible enough to drink alcohol responsibly.
It is also inequitable to say that New Zealanders can vote to elect our Members of Parliament, but cannot drink alcohol. Voting in elections is the most important thing within a society. It allows the legitimacy of that society. How can we say that someone who is responsible enough to ensure the legitimacy of our country, is not old enough to drink responsibly.
As I said, I have not read the Law Commission report, but I have heard that there are some good suggestions. If the suggestion I make here is also in that report, then I apologise, but if it isn’t, it needs to be considered. The problem we are trying to solve is the damaging effects of alcohol. This is caused, to a degree by drink driving, but not so much any more, as I do believe that New Zealanders are starting to get the message about drink driving. The main problem is binge drinking. It is causing domestic violence, destruction of property and disorderly behaviour to name just a few problems. Maybe we need to look at increasing the penalty for being drunk and disorderly. This would include disorderly behaviour and destruction of property. I also believe this would include domestic violence as well, because I find it hard to believe that a person could not be charged with being drunk and disorderly. They would not only be violent to their family. And that violence in public would be consider drunk and disorderly. If this behaviour is picked up, and the person is given a chance to sober up in the police cells, the domestic violence because of binge drinking would be avoided.
Increasing the drinking age to 18 will only increase the problem. If we are to solve it, we need to take realistic actions that are truly aimed at the the problem.