A local youth advocate is disappointed with government plans to focus on youth access to alcohol and says unless the Government implement the recommendations of the Law Commission in total there will be no change in the statistics around alcohol and the damage excess use causes.
“It is no use scapegoating young people”, says Manu Caddie, Trustee for Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti Trust that works with young people who have problems with alcohol and drugs. Mr Caddie contributed to Gisborne District Council’s submission on alcohol law reform last year and participated in a national meeting between Maori community leaders and the Law Commission to discuss the options they were considering putting to government.
“When we met with the Law Commission to discuss their ideas we told Sir Geoffrey Palmer that young people need to stop drinking as heavily as they do, but merely targeting laws against them will not work” said Mr Caddie, the government obviously haven’t taken heed of this message that was passed on by the Law Commission and as a result our binge-drinking culture will no doubt continue.”
Mr Caddie says Public Health guidelines known as the Ottowa Charter, have been implemented internationally for the last 25 years and show that unless the whole community is targeted very little change occurs in behaviour. Getting drunk and smoking cigarettes are seen as a hallmark of adult behaviour.
“Adults are smoking less because of our excellent public health laws and education in this area. If we want young people to decrease their alcohol use then adults have to do the same. Children and young people learn from the examples given to them by adults.”
The Law Commission recommended that if the government is to control the damage caused by excess alcohol drinking then they need to make it less available by curtailing when and where it is sold, and by increasing the price.
“If we are going to reduce the demand for alcohol then we must curtail its promotion through marketing and advertising and provide much more effective education programmes and access to treatment services for those who are having problems with the amount they drink and can no longer control it.”
92% of people with alcohol problems are aged over 20 years but the reform package focuses on people under the age of 20. “Some of the measures are good and we need to address youth attitudes to alcohol but the reforms miss the bulk of Law Commission calls for increasing excise tax, limiting advertising and lowering the blood alcohol levels for driving which would clearly have made the biggest difference.
We hear much about “whole of Government” approaches. Let’s take a “whole of Community” approach to the binge drinking culture we have developed in Gisborne today, and make our community a healthier and happier place to live.