8th June 2018, Volume 131 Number 1476

Stephen Randerson, Sally Casswell, Taisia Huckle

Alcohol is a leading preventable cause of premature mortality, disability and social harm.1 In New Zealand, 5.4% of all premature deaths have been attributed to alcohol, and the Māori mortality…

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Summary

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was implemented during 2013, with the new aim of minimising harm from excessive consumption of alcohol. We assessed the impact of the Act on the drinking environment by reviewing public datasets and reports and interviewing alcohol regulatory staff. We found little evidence that the Act had affected the alcohol environment between 2013 and 2015, other than a small reduction in on-licence trading hours in New Zealand’s main cities. The process of establishing local alcohol policies to protect health has been subverted by the appeals by the alcohol suppliers whose resources are greater than those of local authorities and health agencies.

Abstract

Aim

To assess the impact of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (SSAA) on the alcohol environment from 2013 to 2015.

Method

A mixed methods study incorporating key informant interviews and administrative data to assess changes between 2013 and 2015. Perceptions of the alcohol environment, policy enforcement and policy compliance were thematically analysed and quantitative ratings summarised. Concurrent changes to drink driving law were included.

Results

The SSAA led to a slight reduction in very late night availability in urban centres via the national 4am limit for on-licensed premises trading, which had strong compliance and enforcement. A slight increase in the perceived difficulty of obtaining licences was attributed to increased public opposition, licensing procedures and expanded application criteria. Proposed local alcohol policy (LAP) limits on trading hours and premise locations were delayed and weakened by extensive legal appeals from alcohol retailers. Only five LAPs were in force by 2015. No impact on number of premises, supply to minors or marketing was identified. Reductions in drink drive behaviour and increased availability of lower-strength beer were attributed to the lower legal blood alcohol limit for driving.

Conclusion

Maximum trading hours were the only element of the SSAA found to create a swift change in the alcohol environment, by slightly reducing availability in main cities. LAPs and new licence criteria may gradually constrain future availability, but the strength of LAPs has been muted by alcohol industry appeals. Introducing national, evidence-based policy measures would assist the SSAA to achieve its aim of minimising harm more swiftly, as would measures to protect the LAP development process from alcohol industry influence.

Author Information

Stephen Randerson, Research Officer, SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, College of Health, Massey University, Auckland; Sally Casswell, Co-Director, SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, College of Health, Massey University, Auckland; Taisia Huckle, Senior Researcher, SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, College of Health, Massey University, Auckland.

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (#12/448 and #14/494). We acknowledge the experience of the regulatory personnel interviewed for this study and thank them for their participation. We also thank Martin Wall, Lanuola Asiasiga, Mirinia McVay, Jolyon Sutherland, Thomas Graydon-Guy and Phil Donovan from the SHORE & Whariki Research Centre for their contributions. 

Correspondence

Stephen Randerson, SHORE & Whariki Research Centre, Massey University, PO Box 6137, Wellesley Street, Auckland 1141.

Correspondence Email

s.j.randerson@massey.ac.nz

Competing Interests

All authors report grants from the Health Research Council of New Zealand during the conduct of the study.

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