Alcohol Changes Fall Well Short, Says NZMA

New liquor laws passed in Parliament yesterday [Tuesday 11 Dec] fall well short of the effective measures needed to help New Zealand tackle the many problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption, says the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA).

NZMA Chair Dr Paul Ockelford welcomed measures such as restricting alcohol displays and advertising in supermarkets and requiring parental consent for allowing minors to drink alcohol. “But these fall well short of what’s needed to combat the pernicious effects of excessive alcohol consumption we see every day in New Zealand,” he says.

The NZMA’s concerns relate both to the wide range of health problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption and to the costs to society as a whole. “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,” says Dr Ockelford.

“As well as being associated with diseases of the nervous system, heart, liver and many other common medical problems, alcohol abuse is linked to accidents, family breakdowns and violence.”

In its 2011 submission on the Alcohol Law Reform legislation, the NZMA called for 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.

“We are hugely disappointed that Parliament has chosen to go against the informed advice of the Law Commission, other national experts and the wider public who all backed substantial reform.

“A few restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion, and a small reduction in the sale of liquor in convenience stores might help a little, but an opportunity has been missed to make a substantial difference to the toll of human misery that alcohol takes on our society.

“The NZMA remains 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. Patients suffering from alcohol dependence need early detection and full diagnosis for treatment to be effective.

“But all the treatment in the world can’t make up for the lack of leadership shown on this matter by Parliament,” says Dr Ockelford.