Carol McIntosh says we need to start as early as possible when helping young people get healthy habits around alcohol.
For the past several weeks the Nelson Weekly has been looking at the issues around alcohol and violence on our streets.
Carol, who works in Nelson Marlborough Health’s alcohol health promotion service, says we live in a culture where alcohol is normalised.
“We don’t think of it as a drug and we could be forgiven for not realising the associated risks that go with its use, especially if you are a young person.”
Carol, along with her two colleagues Hilary Genet and Rosey Duncan, has been the driving force behind a local initiative which is helping parents delay teenage drinking for as long as possible.
‘The Plan’ is a project that assists families in creating a plan around how they will deal with alcohol.
Carol says there is more research available now about the harms of starting to drink younger and how it makes you more likely to create a pattern of drinking as you get older.
“It’s a massive problem for parents, you get the 16th birthday party and this is where the requests start coming in and they’re a bit in the dark about what to do.”
She says the alcohol industry puts a huge amount of pressure on parents.
“You’ve got these beautifully made RTDs that are right bang-on ready for kids, parents are not quite sure what other parents are doing and what the general trend is and there’s pressure from the kids.”
She says the changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, which now require parents to get express consent if they want to supply alcohol to other teenagers, is a step in the right direction, but there is still so much work to be done.
“Our brains are not finished developing really until around the age of 25 and early intoxication is one of the major factors in having a drinking problem later in life.
“It seems to be that parents still often supply up to five or six drinks at a time, which is a shed load of alcohol for an adult let alone for a kid.”
Carol says alcohol is much more firmly established than it used to be.
“When we were growing up, we didn’t know about the brain development and didn’t know that, actually, this was going to affect the kids later on, you just had no idea really.
“Now, it’s in cafes, it’s at baby showers, it’s just really crept into our lives.
Alcohol Action NZ say that five government policy changes need to happen to really change the culture of drinking: Raise the price, raise the purchase age, reduce alcohol accessibility, reduce marketing and advertising and increase drink-driving counter measures.
“At the moment society is just condoning it, we are awash with it,” says Carol.
To access information and support on teenage drinking go to www.the-plan.nz