MEDIA RELEASE 15th November 2019
NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) says the majority of New Zealanders drink responsibly and generally Kiwis and young people are drinking less, but there is more work to be done to reduce harmful drinking, in response to the recent results of the National Health Survey [i].
“Eighty percent of New Zealanders who drink alcohol are drinking in a responsible way. Drinking behaviours are changing and we are drinking 25% less than we did in the 1970’s and 80’s [ii]. We are also seeing a significant reduction in drinking especially amongst young people,” says Bridget MacDonald, NZABC’s Executive Director.
“It’s going to take time and an all-of-society approach to make bigger shifts in New Zealand’s drinking culture, but we are seeing positive changes in attitudes, more no- and low- alcohol options, and momentum for change is gaining,” she says.
The survey shows that while 58.3% of 15- to 17-year-olds drank alcohol in the past year, we are still seeing a large decrease (-16.2%) in young people drinking, down from 74.5% in 2006/07. In the wider group of young people aged 15-24 years, drinking has declined 7% from 83.8% in 2006/7 to 76.8% in 2018/19.
NZABC says the industry has zero-tolerance for underage drinking, and acknowledges drinking too much alcohol can cause harm, and that more needs to be done to accelerate the changes and reduce harmful drinking.
The current hazardous drinking measure has only been surveyed for 4 years making any long-term trends difficult to establish. However, since collecting the data in 2015/16, there has been a reduction in hazardous drinking in the following age brackets:
15-24 years (-2.6%), 18-24 years (-1.7%), 25-34 years (-2.3%), 45-54 years (-0.8%).
Bridget MacDonald says, “We all have a part to play in reducing harmful drinking and ensuring those who choose to drink do so responsibly, moderately and safely. This needs the collective effort of parents, family, friends, schools and universities, workplaces, NGOs, local and central government, and the alcohol industry too. We need to tackle reducing harmful drinking through targeted education and support programmes, which are critical to educating young people on alcohol harm and encouraging adults to drink responsibly.”
Two youth-focused education programmes are already helping young Kiwis to make better decisions around alcohol and to delay drinking. The Smashed Project is a theatre-based education programme that equips to Year 9 students to deal with real life situations where there may be peer pressure to drink alcohol. Since launching in May, more than 20,000 students across New Zealand now have a better understanding of the negative effects of alcohol, how to make better choices for themselves, and where to find help if they need it. The partnership between Life Education Trust and The Tomorrow Project (Cheers NZ), which is funded by in part by NZABC members Spirits New Zealand and the Brewers’ Association, is aiming to roll out the programme to all 60,000 Year 9 students in 2020.
Cheers NZ (cheers.org.nz) also delivers social marketing initiatives to shift parents’ attitudes towards underage drinking and to support them in being better role models.
[ii] Graph 1.below shows a reduction in consumption of alcohol per head of population in New Zealand. Other positive trends can be seen in the most recent OECD data (2017), which shows that alcohol consumption in New Zealand is below the OECD average (see Graph 2.).