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Alcohol is a problem in our wider community.
Alcohol is classified as a drug, the most commonly used drug in New Zealand, and the demand is growing.
On a week day, 18% to 35% of people who receive medical care are under the influence of alcohol. During the weekend, this number grows to 60% to 78%.
Alcohol causes one out of 20 deaths, and 800 deaths per year.
One in six people over the age of 15 are reported to have drinking problems.
All this is dangerous and outrageous! I find it appalling to think that people in the community allow this to happen.
We need to achieve a safer community and change New Zealand's culture.
Alcohol does not only cause drunken behaviour and car crashes, it causes depression, Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and cancer.
Much of this, including deaths, could be prevented were the community prepared to be courageous in making changes.
Removal of all sources of advertising, such as billboards and posters, advertisements on television and junk mail and sales posters would be a start.
The Government did this with smoking and so far it has worked well.
Therefore, I think that it would be possible for the same to happen for alcohol.
I have noticed in the weekly junk mail from supermarkets that many leave more space for alcohol than fresh fruit and vegetables, and there are also many special sales for alcohol such as a ''wine and beer sale''.
A recently conducted survey of a year 12 class showed that one out of six craved an alcoholic drink once they had seen an advertisement.
This is rather high. Eliminate the advertising and that will be one less source of encouragement to drink.
I think that raising the age limit to 19 or 20 would help too, as sometimes the younger ones get their older friends to buy the alcohol.
If the age limit was lifted, the numbers of young people with access would be reduced, lessening the chances for young people to have alcohol-related accidents and to develop dangerous drinking habits.
Closing all bars in pubs, clubs and other places that sell alcohol at a set time to prevent binge drinkers would also be a worthwhile step to take.
This is not to say that drinking with friends is bad, but people do go to the clubs and bars just to get drunk.
When people have a plan to get drunk is when the most damage is done.
How about limiting the number of standard drinks that are in a pack, and how many packs one person can buy at any one time?This would minimise the number of drinks that one can drink and thereby lessen the consequences of drinking too much alcohol.
In my view, alcohol will never be illegal as it is in some countries, because there is too much demand for it and it is fair to say that some people still use it responsibly.
The best we can do is to change our culture for the next generation by removing advertising, raising the drinking age, limiting the number of alcoholic drinks that one person can buy, and closing all bars at a given time. If we do this, we should achieve a safer future for New Zealand and the next generation.
• By Alyson Scurr, Year 12, Tokomairiro High School