Drink lessons from across the ditch


Al­co­hol con­sump­tion is a causal fac­tor in 200 dif­fer­ent med­i­cal con­di­tions and kills 3.3 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery year, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

There is no safe level of con­sump­tion in re­la­tion to sev­eral com­mon can­cers, and whether there are car­dio­vas­cu­lar ben­e­fits of mod­er­ate drink­ing is in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain.

Ex­perts con­vened un­der the aus­pices of the WHO have re­viewed the in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific ev­i­dence on pol­icy in­ter­ven­tions to re­duce al­co­hol­re­lated harm.

They con­clude the ev­i­dence sup­ports five broad ap­proaches (the 5 Ps): in­creas­ing the price of al­co­hol, re­duc­ing the pro­mo­tion of al­co­hol, hav­ing a pur­chase age of 20 years or higher, polic­ing of drink-driv­ing, and re­duc­ing al­co­hol’s phys­i­cal avail­abil­ity.

The price of al­co­hol has failed to keep pace with in­comes in New Zealand and a drink can cost as lit­tle as 30 cents in su­per­mar­kets.

In re­la­tion to pro­mo­tion, the Gov­ern­ment has buried a re­port from a com­mit­tee it set up, which ad­vised it to limit broad­cast ad­ver­tis­ing of al­co­hol to chil­dren, and to elim­i­nate al­co­hol spon­sor­ship of sport.

New Zealan­ders will re­call that in 2012 the Par­lia­ment failed to in­crease the min­i­mum pur­chase age from 18, de­spite two-thirds of MPs favour­ing an in­crease.

The Gov­ern­ment re­cently re­duced the drink-driv­ing limit, fi­nally fall­ing into line with global best prac­tice (a limit of .05 g/dL was in­tro­duced in the 1970s and 1980s in most Aus­tralian states). We will have to see whether the wa­ter­ing down of penal­ties for of­fences in the .05 to .08 g/dL range re­duces the de­ter­rence ef­fect seen in ju­ris­dic­tions with stiffer penal­ties.

It is too early to tell whether re­cent law changes are giv­ing com­mu­ni­ties more in­flu­ence over the phys­i­cal avail­abil­ity of al­co­hol, but the early signs are not pos­i­tive. The in­dus­try has mounted le­gal chal­lenges against Lo­cal Al­co­hol Poli­cies that may de­ter coun­cils from adopt­ing ef­fec­tive coun­ter­mea­sures.

In my talk to the Royal So­ci­ety of New Zealand Wanaka branch on Thurs­day, I will ex­plain how re­cent events in Aus­tralia of­fer insights into how pol­icy re­form re­lat­ing to phys­i­cal avail­abil­ity can oc­cur, and pro­duce health ben­e­fits, de­spite the ef­forts of the al­co­hol in­dus­try and other vested in­ter­ests.

The in­ter­na­tional ev­i­dence for last drinks reg­u­la­tions is com­pelling: trad­ing ex­ten­sions of as lit­tle as one hour in­crease harm, and re­stric­tions re­duce harm.

New Zealand should con­sider re­duc­ing the cur­rent on-li­cense al­co­hol sales limit of 4am to re­duce as­sault and other harms.

❚ Pro­fes­sor Kypros is a se­nior re­search fel­low in al­co­hol-re­lated in­jury epi­demi­ol­ogy in the Univer­sity of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health. He speaks at the Pres­by­te­rian Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, 91 Tenby Street, Wanaka on Thurs­day Oc­to­ber 20 from 6pm.


Pro­fes­sor Kypros Kypri of the Univer­sity of Newcastle.

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