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Concerned Kiwis and community groups are being urged to join the debate about alcohol law reform following the release of the Law Commission’s report today.

The New Zealand Drug Foundation and Alcohol Healthwatch have launched an initiative called It’s our turn to shout. It’s an appeal to communities and individuals to get involved and have their say about what sort of alcohol laws will reduce alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says the debate, triggered by the Law Commission Review, represents the first significant opportunity in 20 years for individuals and communities to have their say on alcohol law reform.

“We want to encourage as many people as possible to engage in the debate. The focus will be on changing the current environment, which promotes heavy drinking and youth drinking.”

Ms Williams says the health and social cost of alcohol abuse is estimated at $5.3 billion a year, and around 1000 people die each year as a result of alcohol use. She says New Zealand’s liberal liquor laws are to blame for creating an environment in which every level of society is negatively affected by drinking.

“Our increasingly lax liquor laws have led to a society awash with alcohol. There are bottle stores in almost every neighbourhood, cheap alcohol in supermarkets, and bars open all hours. The law allows the liquor industry to spend millions marketing seductive products to young people. Is it any wonder we have a problem?

“We need a comprehensive mix of measures that will work together to address all aspects of alcohol-related harm.”

It’s our turn to shout is about ensuring the public’s voice is heard above the industry groups that have influenced decisions in the past, she says.

“We want community organisations to motivate their members to engage in the debate and to create a groundswell of public opinion that decision makers won’t be able to ignore.”

The initiative will use social media like Facebook, Twitter and Blogger to generate public discussion and will support individuals and groups to have their say about what they believe will reduce alcohol-related harm in their communities.

It’s our turn to shout is a call to action and a plea to mums and dads, families and whānau to help bring an end to weak liquor laws that have served the booze barons at the expense of ordinary Kiwis,” Ms Williams says.

“Each and every one of us is affected by alcohol, either by our own drinking or someone else’s. Our booze-soaked culture is everybody’s problem, and now is our chance to shout about it.”

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