Tonga Raises Drinking Age From 18 To 21 Years

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Cites escalating violence, age in line with election voting

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 30, 2014) – Tonga's parliament has passed a law to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21 years.

It cited escalating violence among teenagers as the main reason for the change.

Health Minister Lord Tu'i'afitu told parliament he is convinced alcohol consumption is the root cause of the problem.

Drew Havea, president of the Tongan National Youth Congress, says it is not just young people who are causing trouble.

"I think when we look at it, there're many adults who drink irresponsibly," he told Pacific Beat.

"Something we really need to look at is how to educate, not just young people, but older people.

"I don't think that raising the drinking [age] means that a person becoming 21 will be more responsible or more mature to make responsible decisions."

Mr Havea says young people need more warnings about the effects of alcohol.

"I think in Tongan society we saw alcohol as the cause of a lot of bad things. So we put that particular label [on it] without preparing our young people that when they come to this stage they have to be responsible.

"We have not prepared them to meet this issue and that's the result: more young people get violent when they use alcohol."

The Tongan drinking age is now in line with the age they can first vote in parliamentary elections.

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