Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Voices of Wisdom

Two weeks ago 17-year-old Wellington native Brittany Trilford gave a fantastic speech to the Rio+20 Earth Summit.

And today the Dominion Post has a fantastic opinion piece from 16-year-old Jess Palairet on the Alcohol Reform Bill.

Some highlights:
The Alcohol Reform Bill is not achieving what it should. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to objectively evaluate the drinking culture. It is a chance to make the tough calls now, for the benefit of New Zealand in the long run.
The Alcohol Reform Bill is doing little to tackle New Zealand's binge drinking culture, rather it is punishing Adults for the behaviour of 13-year-olds.
The debate around the reform has so far focused on lifting the age – seeming to place the blame for our bad drinking culture on the shoulders of young people.
I'm not sure if I agree with that.
In a recent survey of under-18s conducted by the Children's Commissoner's Young People's Reference Group, one young person said, "What's never focused on is the fact that young people are the victims".
When it iss put like that it seems so obvious, but I have to admit in all my thinking on New Zealand's binge drinking culture I have never really thought about young people as the victims. But its true.
They are the victims of the media, which has generated this image that young people have to drink to be normal, de-stress and have a good time.

Advertising for alcohol is plastered everywhere young people go; at sports games through sponsorship, on floats at Christmas parades, on television, billboards and on the internet; all of which are near-impossible to get away from.

Children and young people are also the victims of alcohol-related abuse, violence and broken families because of alcohol.
The Alcohol Reform Bill will do little about any of these and Jess finishes with a real flourish.
For these reasons the Government's action needs to be stronger and not tokenistic. There needs to be action that prioritises young people over the alcohol industry. The proposed age change is avoiding the problem and consequently putting the blame on young people.

It should be targeting alcohol advertising and banning alcohol sponsorship for events, such as rugby games; making sure alcohol is not cheaper than milk, simply by raising the price of alcohol; stopping the production of ready-to-drink alcoholic, but seemingly non-alcoholic, drinks.
I know as a teen and even now the best ads on TV are often the alcohol ads and have a big effect on impressionable young people. Similarly what impression does it give when Zac Guildford can go on a drunken rampage in Rarotonga, come back and play in Rugby gear covered in Beer logos in Stadiums covered in alcohol advertising and make the All Black squad?

Raising the drinking age is a smokescreen from a Government and politicians without the guts to take on the Alcohol industry. Thankfully our young people don't seem so afraid.

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