Harmful alcohol use costs New Zealand billions of dollars, though it’s hard to put an exact figure on it.
Alcohol use was estimated to cost New Zealand $4.9 billion per year in 2006, with other estimates ranging between $734 million and $16.1 billion (according to a 2009 Business & Economic Research report into the costs of alcohol and other harmful drug use).
The 2010 Law Commission Review described New Zealand as having “unbridled commercialisation of alcohol”. This commercial model is causing a lot of harm to individuals and communities. But addressing social and environmental factors can help reduce these harms.
Communities around the country are trying to reduce the impact of alcohol harm, but the lobbying power of supermarkets and the alcohol industry means it’s hard for communities, who don’t have as many resources, to compete.
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act needs to be strengthened so communities are supported against the alcohol industry. This would mean communities can have a better say over things that affect alcohol harm in their neighborhoods, like opening hours and the number of liquor licenses.
Alcohol advertising contributes to New Zealand’s drinking culture by associating alcohol with social, sexual, and sporting success. Alcohol advertising encourages people to start drinking younger and more heavily than they otherwise would.
If we are serious about protecting young people and communities, we need to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship.
The price of alcohol in New Zealand is cheaper than it was in the 1980’s. It now takes the average worker two minutes to earn a glass of cask wine. As the price of alcohol rises the amount people drink tends to fall. This also results in a decrease in the harms that come from drinking. Teenagers are particularly sensitive to price, so increasing the price can help reduce teen drinking.
Having a minimum price for alcohol stops retailers from compensating for price increases by using discounts or selling alcohol below cost.
A 2010 review of New Zealand’s alcohol laws by the Law Commission recommended increasing alcohol excise tax by 50 percent and investigating minimum pricing options.
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