29 August 2014
An editorial in today’s New Zealand Medical Journal drives home the message that New Zealand has too many risky drinkers, and too little alcohol law reform, says the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA).
“Changes to the drink-driving limit that come into force later this year will help reduce alcohol-related accidents,” says NZMA Chair Dr Mark Peterson. “But, as the editorial points out, one effective strategy will not be enough to transform our culture of risky drinking. As with tobacco policy reform, phasing out marketing and increasing the price of alcohol will be fundamental to achieving culture change.”
The editorial by Professors Doug Sellman and Jennie Connor points out that in 2008–2010, New Zealanders 15 years and over were consuming an average of 10.9 litres of pure alcohol each year, or 16.5 standard drinks per week.
“These are just average consumption figures,” says Dr Peterson, “which means that large numbers of people drink considerably more. And the average figure itself is well over the recommended maximum of 10 standard drinks per week for women and 15 for men, so a large number of drinkers are consuming at even higher volumes.”
In 2012, the NZMA noted that an opportunity had been lost with the passing of The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, with measures falling well short of what was needed to combat the effects of excessive alcohol consumption seen every day in New Zealand.
“The introduction of local alcohol policies (LAPs) does give communities some ability to restrict trading hours and the density of liquor outlets,” says Dr Peterson, “And the NZMA continues to make submissions on LAPs.
“But councils are constantly challenged in their efforts to put limits on alcohol consumption in their areas—of the 22 provisional LAPs produced, 15 have so far been appealed by the alcohol industry.
“We need more action and leadership on this issue. We did this with tobacco control, and the harmful effects of alcohol abuse on both personal health and on friends, family and those in the wider community are such that we need the same sort of approach.”