Vice Squad
Monday, November 08, 2004
New Zealand Reconsiders Drinking Age Reduction

In 199, New Zealand lowered its minimum drinking age from 20 to 18. A sharp increase in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions for kids aged 10-14 has led some folks to suggest a return to the higher drinking age. (The absolute numbers of such admissions remain small -- 73 admissions from 2000 to 2002 -- but the percentage increase is large.) A trend toward more drinking by females is also evident.

The new information from New Zealand runs counter to some earlier evidence that younger kids were not drinking more after the minimum age was lowered.

Higher minimum drinking ages can be effective at reducing some alcohol-related harms. In the US, I think that the federally-mandated (more-or-less) drinking age of 21 is too high; I'd favor something like 19, at least for beer and wine, but I would even more favor letting states make their own decisions on this. (And any transition to a lower age would have to be carefully handled.) Meanwhile, Vice Squad continues its long tradition of not offering any advice to the New Zealots.

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