I have had over ten years experience working with clients with drug and alcohol problems. My speciality is youth, as I am a trained teacher and worked in residential treatment for young people with drug and alcohol problems. The range of problems was broad as was the choice of substances.
One thing that stood out clearly was the younger the using starts , the greater the problem later. When young people, as young as 12 , start regularly drinking alcohol they are like a cluster-bomb of potential accidents and risks. A drunken 12 year old is a lot more vulnerable than a drunken 20 year old. A drunken thirteen year old girl who looks sixteen is even more concern.
Unfortunately the child user is likely to be accessing their alcohol or cannabis or any other substance from home. There for it can be argued, that raising the age makes no difference.
Well, I do believe it makes sense, to raise the age back to 20, because, the well known fact, that people can do what they like in their own home. So if 18 year-olds want to continue to drink. That's fine, do it at home and make sure your parents look after you. No one wants to be tripping over your vomitess mess on Queen St at 2 am. Like wise the hoardes of mini skirted creatures who travel in loud raucous packs, barely able to stand or staggering along in stilettos. Girls some of you look about 14 or 15. ( I have a very impressionable 14 year old) I also think having bars open all night is madness.
I am certainly not a wowser or an angel. But I am tired of a patchwork of laws cobbled together that don't represent anything barely coherent. It is not public approval we want to appeal to with this issue. Nor do I require the permission of the alcohol and tobacco industries. Its a public health issue that we must tackle. In this instance we need to swing the pendulum out a little further before it can swing back and forth down the middle. Like all good bell curves the bulk of the population conforms to safe drinking practices. But there is a percentage that will not stop drinking or using any other substance till they physically can't. If you are dealing with the group of youth out at night, a quick round up of the most affected usually confirms they are already well known to the police and agencies.
If we removed alcohol from all supermarkets. (Not just the great ones in Waitakere) we have had a major step forward. Then remove cigarettes from them, dairies and garages. Why? Because they are drugs and for adults. These substances are psycho-active and alter our mood and behaviour. I think that is reason enough for them to made available to those only 20 and over. The equivalent, is visiting a doctor to be prescribed a psycho-active substance, which requires 7 years study to ensure the substance prescribed is the correct one.
There are a flood of drugs available and many young people are mixing them with the most readily available one, alcohol. Often the results are tragic, sometimes fatal.
5000 New Zealanders die each year as a result of smoking. I find that too many and unacceptable. I don't want to bury any of my family and friends due to smoking . Cigarettes are one drug that I don't want to see 12 year olds using and yet statistically most young people start smoking at 14. If we could break the uptake in young people we would have the problems associated with smoking half solved.
So my reason for wanting the R20 to be considered is because I want R20 for all drugs and I want cannabis included in the equation. Cannabis is the third most popular drug used in new Zealand and the number one illegally used substance. Tried by 52% of the population and used regularly by 17 it is a waste of time criminalising people for this plant. However due to cannabis being illegal there are few studies to show whether cannabis is as harmful as tobacco when smoked. Lets do a study, is all I can say.