04:41pm Saturday 22 February 2020

Re-thinking supplying alcohol to under-18s

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 comes into effect on December 18, with the requirement of ‘express consent’ from the parent or guardian of those under 18 before alcohol can be supplied.

The Ministry of Health funded Massey University researchers to find out more about the social supply of alcohol to young people, with a view to developing strategies to reduce social supply in anticipation of this law change.

Professor Sally Casswell, Director of Social and Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation (SHORE) at Massey University, says research shows the social supply of alcohol by older friends is an important contributor to the harm young people experience from their drinking.

For this project 700 people were interviewed, with half based in an urban area, and the other half from a provincial area.

Over 70 per cent of the suppliers reported that the alcohol they had supplied to people under 18 had caused some harms, including drunkenness and vomiting, absence from school, physical fights, arrest, injury requiring hospital treatment, sexual assault and, in one community, two deaths were reported.

The young suppliers (aged 18-22) interviewed supplied large amounts of alcohol to younger friends, on average the equivalent of 8-10 cans of ready-to-drink (RTDs) beverages, and the majority had not received permission from the parents of those under 18.

Changes to the law mean express consent must be obtained from the under-18’s parent or legal guardian before alcohol can be supplied, and the alcohol must be supplied in a responsible manner. ‘Express consent’ means a personal conversation, a handwritten note or a text message from the parent or guardian giving permission, while ‘responsible supply’ is where drinking is done under supervision, with food, a choice of low- or non-alcoholic drinks, as well as safe transport options being supplied. Those caught breaking the law face fines of up to $2000.

One of the issues highlighted by the research is that these young suppliers feel they have an obligation to supply alcohol, as they were supplied it by others when they were younger. “Taking a stand to break this cycle could make a real difference to the experience of alcohol related harm by those under 18,” says Professor Casswell.

A number of agencies have met to discuss the implications of the research and a range of community activities are underway to increase awareness of the harms associated with supply to younger friends and siblings.

SHORE is a multi-disciplinary group undertaking policy and community research and evaluation on a variety of health and social topics. SHORE is also a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre in alcohol and drug issues, and co-ordinates the International Alcohol Control study with 11 participating countries.

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