27 April 2010

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) today welcomed the release of the Law Commission's paperAlcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm, which should help our country tackle the many problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

NZMA Chair Dr Peter Foley stressed the serious health problems due to excessive alcohol consumption which is associated with diseases of the nervous system, heart, liver and many common medical problems.

"It is also linked to accidents of all types, family breakdowns, violence and other alcohol-related offences."

"The harmful effects of alcohol in New Zealand have long been underestimated and there is widespread ignorance of the damaging effects of excessive alcohol consumption on both the individual and society.

The NZMA was supportive of many of the recommendations made in the report, including increased taxes on alcohol, regulating irresponsible promotions that encourage the excessive consumption, or purchase, of alcohol, and returning the minimum purchase age for alcohol to 20.

Dr Foley says: "We acknowledge that the evidence supports age as a significant factor in the problems of inappropriate and excessive drinking. The NZMA is supportive of an increase in the purchase age from the current 18 years."

The NZMA also concurs with recommendations to restrict trading hours and for policies which target cheap alcohol because research shows low cost alcohol is favoured by young and heavy drinkers.

"We would also expect increased taxation revenue to be used to better educate New Zealand and to target services in the areas that alcohol causes such an impact."

Dr Foley said the NZMA was also strongly committed to raising the level of professional awareness of medical practitioners to achieve early detection and treatment for patients who may have problems with alcohol.

"For patients suffering from alcohol dependence, early detection and full diagnosis are crucial for treatment to be effective."

"Finally, no law changes will meet their aims unless legislation strengthens enforcement powers."