The New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC) is a member of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), which recently launched a report that aims to share best practices and inspire further actions to prevent underage drinking.
Actions to prevent underage drinking include responsible sales, preventing marketing to those underage, providing training and educational tools and creating partnerships to help make underage drinking socially unacceptable.
"We are encouraged by the ongoing trend and decline in underage drinking. Children and those underage should not drink or have access to alcohol," said NZABC executive director Virginia Nicholls.
To help prevent those underage from seeing alcohol advertisements online, IARD members have put safeguards on their online marketing channels aimed at helping to ensure that their marketing is only directed at those adults who can lawfully buy their products. Safeguards are being strengthened through global partnerships with leading digital platforms.
There are also the first-ever industry-wide global standards to enhance transparency and prevent influencer marketing from reaching those under the legal purchase age.
IARD also recently launched free online resources that support retailers, hospitality venues, and delivery platforms in their efforts to help ensure alcohol is not sold, served, or delivered to people underage or intoxicated.
Since 2010, underage drinking has fallen or stayed the same in three-quarters of the 65 countries where national data is available. It has fallen in half of these countries.
"In New Zealand, fewer young people under 18 are drinking alcohol and those who do are drinking less hazardously. However, more work needs to be done to accelerate these changes."
According to the New Zealand Youth 2000 survey, an increasing proportion of secondary school students choose not to drink. The proportion of secondary students who have never drunk alcohol increased markedly from 26 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2019.
Over time, young people are drinking less often. In the total student population, young people who used alcohol in the past month fell between 2007 and 2019 from 49 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2019.
"It is encouraging to see fewer young people drink and drink less hazardously."
In 2006 and 2007, 74.5 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds had alcohol in the past year, and in 2022, this was reduced by 17.4 percent to 57.1 percent.
"The annual survey by NZABC, which aims to understand New Zealander's views on how alcohol is perceived across several issues, found that most of us agree that targeted education and support programmes will create a better understanding of responsible drinking."
One question asked what respondents thought of alcohol education programmes in schools, and 76 percent agreed that this would reduce alcohol-related harm.
"All the research tells us that the earlier you can start talking to teenagers about drinking, the less likely it is they will become hazardous drinkers – or start drinking at all, which is why education programmes are so important", said Virginia.
'Smashed' is an alcohol and health education and wellbeing programme the Life Education Trust delivers to a third of New Zealand secondary schools. It is funded by the Tomorrow Project, a social change charity governed by Spirits NZ, NZ Winegrowers and the Brewers Association.
Since its inception in 2019 to the end of the 2022 school year, the Smashed programme has been delivered to more than 62,000 students across New Zealand. This means it engages with a third of year nine students in New Zealand each year, building on substance education that starts in primary and intermediate schools.
It provides young people with practical information on how to say no to alcohol or not drinking at all, what a standard drink is and counting drinks, and talks about safe drinking, binge drinking, peer pressure, better decision-making, and availability of zero- and low-alcohol drinks. It also includes an interactive workshop.
Independent research showed the programme was supporting positive changes to youth drinking culture.
"The evidence suggested pupils who attended the programme gained an increased awareness of how different forms of alcohol-related harm might impact them and their peers", said Virginia.
After experiencing Smashed, 92 percent of students said they were less likely to drink alcohol while underage.