Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: What the kids do

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  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Russell Brown,

    OTOH, ethnic Chinese in New Zealand generally drink far less than European New Zealanders.

    I'd be curious to know why. Is it that doing the drinking over a meal means there's less time to drink as much? Or are they just better behaved in general?

    There’s a superb documentary called The World’s Biggest Chinese Restaurant, which captures the Chinese bingeing style basically as you describe it. The owner – a middle-aged woman – goes from table to table greeting guests and, because it seems to be expected, knocking back large glasses of wine with each group. She ends up absolutely slaughtered.

    Sounds like some kind of special occasion, and yes, it would be expected for the host to at least pour drinks for guests, if not toast them too. More everyday normal would be a bunch of mates around a table piling up empties. But yes, that's pretty much the Chinese bingeing style, and it's generally done in a period of a couple of hours.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to James Butler,

    In my experience (I work in IT, after all) this is true - but I also often see ethnic Chinese co-workers who do drink, when exposed to the New Zealand work-function-drinking culture, completely fail to keep their shit together.

    And the Japanese are certainly no teetotallers either. The home of Suntory, Asahi, Sapporo... you name it. And I haven't yet got to the drunken salarymen in the Tokyo subways.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3907 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    . Can you propose a cause that bears no relation to any smokefree policy?

    No, but I don't attribute the drop-off to any one measure either. To state definitively that restricting access is having that effect would be to ignore all the other things that are going on in that area. Likewise, I honestly don't know if just restricting the sale of 'legals' would reduce use, but I have my doubts, as I've seen too many things go underground because it's impossible to continue with them publicly.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I do think the data are such that anyone who proposes a mere correlation needs to suggest some alternative causes.

    Please return your high horse to its stall.

    I did not "propose a mere correlation" - I warned against mistaking correlation for cause, as Sacha had said "Again, does not trump the evidence that restricting availability works". I don't see hard evidence that this is the case. I see genuine hypothesis and results that indicate it may be a factor. But equally, price is a factor, available income, health awareness and public prohibition are all factors, none of which I see as decisive, least of all the grotesque warnings on the packets.

    And nothing dramatically reduces the consumption of tobacco like dramatically reducing the number of places you can consume it.

    Persons under 18 are restricted from buying alcohol, yet we see 12, 13 and 14 year olds regularly getting drunk. So that really worked, didn't it?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Persons under 18 are restricted from buying alcohol, yet we see 12, 13 and 14 year olds regularly getting drunk. So that really worked, didn’t it?

    How many 12-14 year-olds do we see "regularly getting drunk"?

    And are you suggesting allowing 12 year-olds to buy alcohol would not result in more drunk 12 year-olds?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    How many 12-14 year-olds do we see “regularly getting drunk”?

    I have no idea but I’d put money on it being more than get ripped on Kronic.

    And are you suggesting allowing 12 year-olds to buy alcohol would not result in more drunk 12 year-olds?

    No, that’s only your interpretation of what I said, filtered through being pissed off with me for allegedly saying that the stuff you’ve been posting on for years is “mere correlation”. Which I didn’t.

    Your grip needs improvement.


    ETA As to the underage drinkers, I'll listen to the ER specialists, alarmist though they may be. It's the best evidence I've seen so far.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    I did not “propose a mere correlation” – I warned against mistaking correlation for cause, as Sacha had said “Again, does not trump the evidence that restricting availability works”. I don’t see hard evidence that this is the case. I see genuine hypothesis and results that indicate it may be a factor. But equally, price is a factor, available income, health awareness and public prohibition are all factors, none of which I see as decisive, least of all the grotesque warnings on the packets.

    I think the most sensible way to see it is as a package of complementary measures.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • webweaver,

    There’s a fascinating book called Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour in which Kate Fox, an English anthropologist sets out to discover the ‘defining characteristics of Englishness’.

    This is what she says about The Rules of Drunkenness:

    Our beliefs about the behavioural effects of alcohol are certainly at least partly to blame, as they act as self-fulfilling prophecies. If you firmly believe and expect that alcohol will make you aggressive, then it will do exactly that. But this still leaves the question of why we should hold such strange beliefs. The notion that alcohol is a dangerous disinhibitor is not peculiar to the English: it is shared by a number of other cultures, known to the anthropologists and other social scientists who take an interest in such matters as ‘ambivalent’, ‘dry’, ‘Nordic’ or ‘temperance’ cultures – cultures with an ambivalent, morally charged, love/hate, forbidden-fruit relationship with alcohol, usually the result of a history of temperance movements. These are contrasted with ‘integrated’, ‘wet’, ‘Mediterranean’ or ‘non-temperance’ cultures – those for whom alcohol is simply a normal, integral, taken-for-granted, morally neutral part of everyday life; generally cultures that have been fortunate enough to escape the attentions of temperance campaigners. ‘Integrated’ drinking-cultures, despite usually having much higher levels of per-capita alcohol consumption, experience few of the ‘alcoholrelated’ social and psychiatric problems that afflict ‘ambivalent’ cultures.

    Japan is another of those ‘temperance’ cultures, like England and also, I think, like NZ. Not sure about China :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 329 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    No, that’s only your interpretation of what I said, filtered through being pissed off with me for allegedly saying that the stuff you’ve been posting on for years is “mere correlation”. Which I didn’t.

    No, I'm not at all pissed off. But you made a pretty big claim in declaring that an age restriction on alcohol purchase hasn't worked because "we see 12, 13 and 14 year olds regularly getting drunk." I'm not sure that's a sustainable statement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think the most sensible way to see it is as a package of complementary measures.

    I think that's what I said, yes. That's not the same thing as regarding one measure, i.e. restricting availability, as being the cause of evident reduction.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You're crossing conversations. The "correlation" point was made to Sacha, who appeared to be making too much of one data point.

    The underage drinking comment was made to show that restricting availability is not restricting access [ETA or consumption]. Or do you dispute that underage drinking is a problem?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Basically, we've repeatedly seen that a key factor in the "legals" becoming a problem is irresponsible commercialisation and marketing. It happened with BZP, and it's happening now with the cannabinomimetics. I think the future of sensible non-prohibition approaches rests quite heavily on addressing that risk.

    It's not just me. In the UK, Transform's blueprint for drug legalisation (executive summary) has a lot to say about regulation of availability (especially to young people), packaging, etc.

    They're quite frank about the fact that getting the balance right on availability isn't easy -- too harsh and you encourage an illicit market again -- but quite a lot of thinking has been done about this stuff.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    The underage drinking comment was made to show that restricting availability is not restricting access [ETA or consumption]. Or do you dispute that underage drinking is a problem?

    Do you dispute that removing age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol would create a greater problem? Would you seriously, knowing what we know about the risks of cannabinoids in adolescence, propose making the synthetics available without age restriction? Would you change the law to make it legal to sell cigarettes to children?

    I'm honestly struggling to see your argument here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    The "correlation" point was made to Sacha, who appeared to be making too much of one data point.

    More than one data point. I was recalling discussions hereabouts and in other media which cited various evidence about the effectiveness of restricting availability - especially through pricing - compared with other interventions. I've read some of the reports but I am certainly not an expert in this area and nor do I have time to go digging up references.

    I'm not saying that any government would choose just one measure. But to deny a correlation seems to fly in the face of what evidence I have encountered, which seemed to form a reasonable professional consensus. That's all.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15741 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    The underage drinking comment was made to show that restricting availability is not restricting access

    Increasing availability by lowering the legal purchase age is widely reported by ED and other health sector specialists as having resulted in more harms to young drinkers, isn't it?

    Are you saying the opposite doesn't apply? Or are we getting tangled in semantics about "availability" and "access"?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15741 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Ah. This is the study I saw referenced about the impact of point-of-sale displays on youth uptake of smoking. From last year:

    Stanford University Medical School researchers recently conducted a survey in which they found that point-of-sale tobacco advertising greatly influences teenagers’ desire and willingness to smoke. According to the survey, teenagers who frequent establishments where this type of advertising exists are more than twice as likely to try smoking than those who do not visit them.

    More than 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 11 and 14 years old participated in the survey, which recently appeared in the journal Pediatrics. Experts believe the study is a major eye-opener into the effects of direct tobacco advertising on young people.

    “The tobacco industry argues the purpose of advertising is to encourage smokers to switch brands, but this shows that advertising encourages teenagers to pick up a deadly habit,” explained Lisa Henriksen, a senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, and author of the study.

    The contention is that there’s little evidence that that PoS branding actually does cause existing smokers to switch brands, and more that its chief benefit is in recruiting new smokers.

    Yes, this does make things harder for small retailers. I’ve seen figures saying that as much as half their revenue in NZ is in tobacco sales. And the tobacco companies pay them on top of that for PoS displays. But …

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Basically, we've repeatedly seen that a key factor in the "legals" becoming a problem is irresponsible commercialisation and marketing. It happened with BZP, and it's happening now with the cannabinomimetics.

    We are in agreement on this.

    I think the future of sensible non-prohibition approaches rests quite heavily on addressing that risk.

    I take your logic.

    It's not just me. In the UK, Transform's blueprint for drug legalisation (executive summary) has a lot to say about regulation of availability (especially to young people), packaging, etc.

    And right there in the first line is why I have trouble with such an approach:

    Global drug policy is rooted in a laudable and justifiable urge to address
    the strong, and very definite, harms that certain non-medical psychoactive drugs can create.

    Such an urge would have been laudable indeed if more than just a few of the politicians who put the policies in place actually held it. But much drug policy was formulated in the 50's, 60s and 70s, and was more of a reaction to youth rebellion against the establishment - "Drugs make them do these things; let's ban drugs!". There have been a rare few pollies who have worked on the health aspect but, because logic points at loosening drug prohibitions and regulating consumption instead, they have largely been derided as favouring decriminalisation, while the McVicars of the world get the public megaphone to shout "Reefer Madness!" from the rooftops. Some people may have had this urge, but policy and enforcement have never been driven by it.

    The second line is closer to the truth, but it is only referring to the means, whereas I think the "threat" aspect is much closer to the real urge. The public has been kept in a state of fear of these substances for decades because it makes an easy bully pulpit at voting time. Much of the "strong, and very definite, harms that certain non-medical psychoactive drugs can create" have actually been due to the prohibition culture and not to the drugs themselves.

    They're quite frank about the fact that getting the balance right on availability isn't easy -- too harsh and you encourage an illicit market again -- but quite a lot of thinking has been done about this stuff

    Yep, and I'm glad it has and I'm glad they're cautious, but it's not the first report by the first think tank that has suggested a different way of doing things. A charitable foundation, however influential, does not make or change public policy.

    Sure, their proposals seem to make sense, if one can cast off the societal preconceptions of "Drugs bad! Can not haz!" that we live under, but they don't have any evidence that the proposals will work. They cite medical drugs, nicotine (which is interesting as there are far more harmful constituents in tobacco) and alcohol as examples to say that what they're proposing isn't revolutionary - are they saying that we don't have any problems with those three?

    Look, I'm pleased to see the report. It's good to have a document of substance and I'm heartened by the comments at the back from people around the world hailing it. But it's a long way from saying "restricting access WILL reduce problems" because it just hasn't with the Big Three. There is still prescription drug abuse, which has led to the restriction of anything with codeine and pseudoephidrine in it (a bit of a bugger when you're allergic to aspirin and innurred to paracetemol but still get cluster headaches from chronic illness). There is still alcohol abuse, both healthwise and societally. And people still die from tobacco-related illnesses (very few actually die from nicotine poisoning, by the way,so let's call it what it is and not pretend it's just nicotine at fault).

    That's what I mean by saying restricting access to things does not mean you will restrict consumption or problems and to claim that the reduction in tobacco consumption as evidence that access restriction works is very shaky, in my view.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to nzlemming,

    ETA As to the underage drinkers, I’ll listen to the ER specialists, alarmist though they may be. It’s the best evidence I’ve seen so far.

    With all due respect to ER staff, they only see the people that turn up to ED. And by definition they only see the problems. Not saying that underage drinking is or isn't a problem, I just think that by asking ER staff you would be getting a rather slanted view of the issue overall.

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 782 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Do you dispute that removing age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol would create a greater problem? Would you seriously, knowing what we know about the risks of cannabinoids in adolescence, propose making the synthetics available without age restriction? Would you change the law to make it legal to sell cigarettes to children?

    What? Please point to ANY statement where I suggested ANY of this?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    With all due respect to ER staff, they only see the people that turn up to ED. And by definition they only see the problems. Not saying that underage drinking is or isn’t a problem, I just think that by asking ER staff you would be getting a rather slanted view of the issue overall

    In my view, any that they see is too many. And, if only a proportion of those drinking actually go to the ER, then the problem is even greater. I don't think any 12, 13 or 14 year olds have the physical of psychological maturity to be consuming alcohol unsupervised (I'm not talking about a glass of wine at a family meal, here).

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    Increasing availability by lowering the legal purchase age is widely reported by ED and other health sector specialists as having resulted in more harms to young drinkers, isn't it?

    There are still restrictions on availability. You can only buy it at certain places if you're of a certain age, right. That hasn't prevented health and societal problems or reduced consumption per capita of those permitted to purchase it. As a society, we drink more every year. If we were doing it right, we wouldn't have campaigns about "It's how we're drinking".

    The fact that it's now legally available to 18 year olds doesn't change the fact that it's still a restricted item. Or that we had problems when the age was 20. Yes, it's more available now, and we appear to have more problems with the age of drinkers getting even younger, to a point where they can't even begin to metabolise the stubstances they're drinking let alone deal with the issues of being drunk.

    That doesn't mean that the reverse will fix that, or with the cannabinoids. I fear it's a one way street - genie's out of the bottle and it won't go back in. When have you ever known a generation that has gained something give it up?

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1701 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    What? Please point to ANY statement where I suggested ANY of this?

    I didn't say you did!

    But it seemed to be a logical extension of your argument. The part where you said "the underage drinking comment was made to show that restricting availability is not restricting access or consumption."

    I think what you meant was that an age restriction isn't eliminating problems with young adolescents drinking. Well, yeah. And making a law against murder hasn't stopped people killing each other either.

    Can I get this straight? Do you think that abolishing any age restriction on the purchase of alcohol would result in more or fewer 12 year-olds consuming alcohol?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    Such an urge would have been laudable indeed if more than just a few of the politicians who put the policies in place actually held it. But much drug policy was formulated in the 50’s, 60s and 70s, and was more of a reaction to youth rebellion against the establishment – “Drugs make them do these things; let’s ban drugs!”

    Oh, they thought they were preventing harms -- even mythical harms. The task is walking back the assumptions and looking at what actually does reduce harm.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    There are still restrictions on availability. You can only buy it at certain places if you’re of a certain age, right. That hasn’t prevented health and societal problems or reduced consumption per capita of those permitted to purchase it. As a society, we drink more every year.

    At the moment, yes -- and that probably has something to do with a steady increase in availability.

    But we drink way less than we used to even 30 years ago, never mind in the early 20th century.

    The major exception since the 1990s has been in youth drinking, as Brian Easton points out in a fascinating paper which I will use as my excuse to toodle off and start making dinner. With a glass of wine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17967 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Can I get this straight? Do you think that abolishing any age restriction on the purchase of alcohol would result in more or fewer 12 year-olds consuming alcohol?

    When I grew up I didn't even know what the legal drinking age was in Italy - in fact I still don't. I know we used to order beer in restaurants at 16, and it was never an issue. Nor did we wait for a magical age threshold after which we could get smashed. Which is not to say that New Zealand doesn't need an age limit, just that the drinking culture would seem the bigger culprit by a very sizeable margin.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

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