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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Same old song

There is more talk about raising the drinking age. I think there is more talk about raising the drinking age because the latest TVONE news promo has Si and that other chick rapping with young people about their drinking age outside on the street. Si was kickin’ it one time in his hoody jacket and the chick looked genuinely cold for the first time in a long time. That promo appeared a day after a TVNZ major report on increasing the drinking age. Now maybe I’m cynical, but whenever the News media trumpet ‘serious debate about a minority within society’ I end up watching Flat Earth arguments go unchallenged for the sake of ‘objectivity’. Say after me O-B-J-E-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y. See how reasonable it sounds when you say it real slow? BUT suddenly, here is TVNZ running a report as if it has just been handed down from Moses (who then informed a mate of his at Telecom) and then we get the prepackaged ‘Street Jive’ – I just wondered if anyone else noticed how planned that ‘News’ was.

But I don’t want to talk about that.

I want to talk about raising the drinking age. Forgive me, but how can we jump up and down at under age drinking when the kids are simply copying the example most adult NZers set. We are a nation of pissheads! Sure scratch the surface of any free trade coffee drinking, public transport humping, Wellington City Council worker, and you find a raving alcoholic. Sure it’s dressed up for the Middle Class as ‘wine-clubs’, but its endemic in our culture. It’s like we are forever suffering from some colonial hangover we can’t shake with all those awful “Christ did I really do that’ flashback moments.

We are depressed, and we drink far too much – think of any drunk you know. They all have one thing in common, some ‘emotional’ problems. Isn’t it true for a country? The adverts say, “It’s not what you drink, it’s how we drink”. I don’t think it’s what or how, I think it’s about ‘why’ we drink.

Modern capitalism needs as many nuclear families as possible so that consumption is maximized (hence the vested interest to devalue less profitable communal values). Individualism has become so fetishisd that we have less and less contact with one another. Loneliness and a lack of social contact in this country is a deep hurt, add to it daily mass media pollution that attempts to sell your insecurities to you by making you more insecure of them, is it any wonder we get boozed up to the point of black out?

I’m sure a lot of it has to do with our wind stunted staunch uber alles blokedomness. From observation at too many social events I’d care to mention, most men have a difficult enough time talking to one another let alone try striking up a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. Booze is the social lubricant of choice for a nation who can’t talk with themselves let alone one another.

At this point you might be expecting me to roll out the Temperance Union band and start railing against booze. I won’t, personally drink ain’t my thing, but it can be of hell of a lot fun and sometimes booze just hits the spot. But the mindset we’re going into this doesn’t suggest we are having a great night out. Booze is a restricted product but in our drive to be able to buy the stuff in every supermarket and corner dairy we have made it more accessible than ever before. This makes no sense, we need to remind ourselves that it is restricted and as such need to roll that liberalization back. Then we need to police those restricted places more often, community groups regularly test liquor outlets to see if they sell to underage booze buyers, and in some parts of Auckland, 50% do!

It seems ridiculous that we would only focus on the drinking habits of 18 or 19 year olds when so much of the exact same behavior is exhibited (and some could argue, copied) throughout the population. But we will push to raise the age because that sweeps the issue under the carpet and doesn’t end up costing the industry any money by reducing the amount of outlets.

There is no depression in NZ.


At 19/7/06 9:09 pm, Blogger JamesP said...

Interesting theory about the availability of alcohol. Unfortunately while the number of liquor licences has increased by 35% over the last 10 years the consumption of alcohol has actually remained static or fallen slightly over the same period.

At 19/7/06 9:24 pm, Blogger bomber said...

So we could decrease the consumption if we made the availability of booze harder?

At 19/7/06 9:54 pm, Blogger JamesP said...

I doubt it unless you were planning something really draconian.

Why should a reasonable person believe that cutting back the availability would make any difference when increasing availability to reach our current levels made no difference? To me that suggests there is pretty much no correlation between the two factors.

And this position is backed by NZs experience in limiting the availability of alcohol.

Where did people drink before all the newer cafes and clubs got liquor licences? The good old booze barns.

What happened when we restricted the hours people could drink? The six o'clock swill.

Basically people will drink as much as they want and any they will adjust their *other* behaviour around any restrictions you place on availability.

At 20/7/06 2:34 am, Anonymous bomber said...

Do you think that the drop in consumption is a cost thing? I mean those who are full blown boozers seem to me to be low income folk, so if the recent report into poverty suggested that those on the bottom got it harder, then they may not have been able to have bought as much booze? Surely there are other factors involved in a drop of consumption? And don't you think that we allow too many distribution points to exist while turning a blind eye to those who sell to minors? I agree that people who want to get plastered will get plastered, I just think that you do have to force the person to make a specific effort to go buy their booze at an R18 Liquor store, rather than just providing effortless supply down at the corner dairy. It is a restricted item, let's make it restricted.

At 20/7/06 10:26 am, Blogger JamesP said...

I don't think reducing the number of outlets will necessarily lead to stricter enforcement of the R18 limit. I only need to think back to my own (and friends) experience of buying alcohol under-age back in the early '90s to see that it was quite simple even with fewer outlets a R20 limit. It was all about knowing the weak links, sending in the most experienced and oldest looking person, and buying enough so that they knew you weren't part of a bust. Buying a single bottle was risky but when you fronted up to the counter with several hundred dollars worth of booze for a party they always turned a blind eye. And even with perfect enforcement there is always the option of getting it through older family members.

As for whether there has been a drop in consumption over the last 10 years, I'm not sure. If there has been a drop it is under 2% but given that the year to year variability in between exceeds that my gut tells me it's statistically irrelevant.

Which would lead me to conclude that your theory about poor people being able to buy less is unlikely. Unless you have some specific evidence that the poor are drinking less and the rich are drinking correspondingly more?

Look at the Kahuis. They had plenty of money for booze and if it was too expensive? Well they stiffed the power company so they could drink in the dark. Again it's the other behaviour that changes to accommodate the drinking.

At 20/7/06 12:10 pm, Anonymous bomber said...

.........................good points man, but I'm still looking at the problem we have with booze as a society and I can't help but wonder if we have been too lax with distribution points and policing the age restrictions. I mean we have some pretty big social problems here, if we don't look at cutting back distribution or increasing age enforcement - what solution would you suggest? I'm the first to hold up regulation of advertising as a way to reduce demand, but I think the booze industry advertising standards are pretty tough as it is, so I'm not sure if more advertising regulation would be the solution. Again any ideas would be window dressing to the deeper soceity issues we have with booze, but making the product more difficult to obtain does sound like a start. I just don't think increasing the age to 20 will even begin to answer the questions.

At 20/7/06 1:33 pm, Blogger JamesP said...

IMO education is the only way right now.

Technology holds some hope for the future. This week New Scientist has a feature article about creating alcohol with all the benefits but none of the drawbacks. I'd drink to that ;)

Ad regulation? Heh. Booze is such an integral part of out culture that you could ban ads and nothing would happen.

18 vs 20. A political sideshow with at best a marginal effect on the youngest drinkers.

At 24/7/06 5:29 am, Anonymous bomber said...

..............................Has anyone else noted the half page adverts TVNZ News has taken out in all the papers asking if it was right to lower the drinking age? Looks like that 'news' story was a publicity stunt, how ethical does anyone think that is?


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