Keep It 18

One of the reasons I got involved in politics at such a young age (I’m 18), is because I hope to be able to provide representation for those many young people whose voices are not always heard. Too often MPs make decisions that have significant effects on youth without seeking input from youth themselves. To have genuine youth consultation, young people need to be at the table. One of my roles in the Young Greens is being the Spokesperson for Keep It 18.

For those who aren’t aware, ‘Keep It 18’ is an organization that was set up to oppose the proposed increase in the purchase age for alcohol. It is essentially an alliance of the youth wings of the Labour, National, Green and ACT parties.

As young people we recognise, and have full awareness of, the harm that alcohol abuse produces in our society. And therefore we support efforts to try and remedy the situation. However, we passionately oppose the notion that to do this we need to discriminate against the young, by raising the age at which they can purchase alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is a massive nationwide problem and there is no evidence to suggest that this is disproportionate amongst the youth. Many argue, and there will be a conscience vote in Parliament to decide, that the age should be increased to 20. Others believe that the age should be split, so that 18 year olds can drink in licensed premises only (ie bars and clubs) until they are 20. In my view there is no scientific, moral, or constitutional justification for this. If it was because of the effects that alcohol has on brain development then it would need to be raised to the age of 25 so any like justification for a raise in the age to 20 is completely arbitrary on those grounds.

The reality is 18 year olds are given all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship (apart from gambling in casinos). These include; voting in elections, being one’s own guardian, and even going to war and possibly dying in the name of our country. To say that these adults should not be able to buy a beer is simply absurd.

The Greens support a number of other options to try and change our overall drinking culture. One of these is putting an excise tax on alcohol, which has worked very effectively with tobacco products, as well as restricting the advertising of alcohol. There are many other options expressed in the recent Law Commission report.

Young people are by no means the only section of society with alcohol problems so should not be used as an easy scapegoat to provide MPs with some moral comfort. Let’s Keep it 18.