Young Greens Support Justice Minister Comments – Stop Blaming Youth!

Once again, youth are in the firing line as an easy excuse for a problem that is rife in New Zealand.

By now, many of you would have heard the incessant bleating that youth are to blame for the social blight of binge drinking. It’s nothing but a classic example of the ‘blame youth’ rhetoric that has resounded for generations – only this time youth are being accused, en masse, of not being mature enough to handle their drinks.

But what this argument does is hide some of the real issues surrounding the debate – namely, what drives many young people to seek solace and security in a bottle – but a powerful voice has finally thrown some reasoned thoughts on the issue – from an unlikely source.

Surprisingly, Minister of Justice Phil Goff is calling on the liquor industry to tighten its performance and wake up to its responsibilities to young people. The Young Greens have today come out in support of the Minister’s calls to put pressure on the liquor retail industry to uphold its obligations under the law and properly enforce the current drinking age.

What this debate ultimately boils down to is that young people are overindulging in alcohol, and how we can cut down on this.

Ultimately it is less important at what age people do have a drink, rather it is when that drink becomes binge drinking. So rather than take the prohibition stance of cutting off alcohol to them, instead we should be looking at why people are drinking to excess. The fact that we indulge in binge drinking is a symptom of deeper problems within our society. The fact that so many people are choosing to do this to themselves, and not just young people, should be of clear concern and tells us that there are underlying issues in our society.

We should be looking at this “why” question, and instead of blaming teenagers for going along with the values of a society they live in, we should be focusing our energies on changing the society and its values.

How can we expect our youth to lead exemplary lives when we offer them such appalling role models? We try and teach them to lead healthy lifestyles yet a beer company sponsors our national game. We try and educate them about the dangers of alcohol but all they see on television is how sexy and cool drinking is. It’s not just about preventing youth from excess drinking; it’s about educating our whole community.

Do we want to continue to have excessive consumption of alcohol as a cornerstone of our national identity? Or do we want to start a new culture of responsible youth? Responsible youth will come from responsible guidelines.

That’s why the Greens’ youth affairs spokesperson, Nandor Tanczos, is stepping up the pressure on the industry soon with a campaign to stop the liqour industry sending the wrong messages to young people. In a time when campuses around New Zealand will be full of young people celebrating the beginning of the university year, they will be bombarded with the message from beer barons and liqour merchants that drinking is cool – and being drunk is cooler. It’s also a short path to big problems and Nandor wants to minimise the harm this is doing by banning the intentional targetting of liqour advertising to young people. It’s about responsibility.

Most youth will agree that the current drinking age is responsible and consistent with other age restriction legislation. The main issue is the enforcement of that law, the responsibility of the retail industry.