The Government’s Alcohol Reform Bill is little more than window dressing and does little to significantly help New Zealand’s 700,000 heavy drinkers or protect the public from the carnage they cause.
“You would have to ask if the Government is truly serious about dramatically reducing the harm done by excessive drinking when it omits the most effective means to do this from its Bill,” Salvation Army spokesman Major Campbell Roberts says.
The Bill overlooks the most effective means of reducing harmful drinking, including raising excise on alcohol – the most effective method of achieving this according to the World Health Organisation.
“Until we are rid of dirt-cheap alcohol, the promotion and advertising of alcohol and lower the blood alcohol level to at least 0.5, we are doing little more than paying lip service to a dire and expensive social problem.” Major Roberts says.
The Salvation Army recommends the Government immediately increase excise on alcohol by 25 per cent. This would have little effect on moderate drinkers but would reduce alcohol consumption by teenagers and heavy drinkers – the most price-sensitive consumers – by as much as 10 per cent.
The Government’s decision not to increase excise but consider a minimum pricing regime some time in the future is ignoring the facts, Major Roberts says.
“While we dither, people are injured, people die, families are torn apart and the financial cost to every New Zealander continues to climb – where is the logic in that? The Government now needs to carefully listen to New Zealanders’ concerns and not those of the liquor industry,” he says”
A 25 per cent rise in alcohol excise would increase the price of a pint of beer at a bar by about 20 cents and a bottle of wine by around 50 cents. An eight per cent strength six-pack of bourbon and cola or a three-litre cask of wine would rise by about $2.
A study of 138 New Zealanders receiving addiction treatment at Salvation Army Bridge Programmes last year found the promotion of cheap alcohol and an abundance of liquor outlets were significant factors that contributed to their addictions.
Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Donald Bell (Territorial Commander)
The Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji & Tonga Territory
> Under the Influence (PDF, 2.42MB) April 2010 - reshaping NZ's drinking culture
> A Contest of Spirits (PDF, 1.6MB) April 2010 - how we see alcohol
> Excising Excess (PDF, 1.59MB) Nov 2009 - alcohol tax options
> Alcohol in our Lives (PDF, 280KB) Nov 2009 - submission to the Law Commission