Monday 12 July 2021

In the July issue of The Shout NZ, NZABC’s executive director Bridget MacDonald discusses how underage drinking is trending downward and some of the initiatives in place to support this downward trend.

We all know that alcohol is an adult drink, but sometimes it finds itself in the hands of a teen. Last year, 57.5% of 15–17-year-olds drank alcohol. As an industry, we say that’s not okay. Young brains are still developing, so it’s important to delay when someone has their first drink. What is promising is underage drinking has been trending downwards since 2006/7, when 75.5% of 15–17-year-olds drank alcohol.

We all need to play our part to help accelerate this downward trend – government, health and education providers, communities, parents, and the alcohol industry.

As a member of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), we support the actions our industry is working on to reduce underage drinking globally, including symbols or written age restrictions on alcohol drink labels and not marketing alcohol-free extensions of alcohol brands to underage people. It also includes a partnership with digital platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube) to develop new standards of marketing responsibility to be rolled out worldwide to prevent underage people from seeing or interacting with alcohol brands online.

In NZ, our advertising, marketing, social media and sponsorship activities are strongly regulated through legislation and the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code, so we work hard to communicate with people over 18 years of age only.

The industry also supports ‘Smashed’, a theatre in schools programme delivered by Life Education Trust. It has already helped tens of thousands of Year 9 students better understand the negative effects of alcohol and equipped them to deal with real-life situations where there may be peer pressure to drink. Alcohol education programmes in schools are supported by 88% of Kiwis.

It’s important for parents and other adults to be good role models for teens as it impacts their decision making and drinking habits for the rest of their lives – we might think we’re doing them a favour by supplying alcohol, but we should do what we can to delay drinking. Cheers NZ ( provides handy tips for parents to have conversations with teens and provides information to support them in being better role models.

Together, through education and taking practical steps to reduce underage drinking, we can make a difference in our young people’s lives.

Find out the latest news and what is happening in New Zealand’s hospitality and alcohol beverages sector here.