Alcohol: another bad habit needing action
Over the last few weeks, I have been heartened by report after report showing that New Zealand is turning the tide on the socially hazardous habit of smoking. Not only are people giving up at an increasing rate, we also have a whole generation of young people actively choosing a smokefree future.
While it is fantastic news that we are making progress towards achieving our goal of Aotearoa being a smoke-free nation by 2025, I cannot help but think of our other bad habits that we also need to kick in order to create real social transformation in this country.
One that really stands out is alcohol.
This week I received an email from a group called Alcohol Action NZ, lobbying us as politicians to get tougher on alcohol reform. Their message was clear: 1. Public support for alcohol reform is very high, 2. Alcohol harm to others is very high and children are particularly vulnerable.
The group reminded me that if we are serious about addressing whanau wellbeing and children’s wellbeing, then we must address the alcohol issue in this country.
They told me that while the Alcohol Reform Bill was a start, we need to do more than raise the alcohol purchase age. We need to address the pricing, accessibility and advertising. We also need to do more to address the issue of drunk driving.
I want to say here, that I support all of these suggested measures. The Maori Party worked hard to influence the development of the Alcohol Reform Bill and I know our advice helped to shape the legislation put before the House. But we can do more.
I have seen, through our work in the area of tobacco reform, that we can make a real difference if we choose to do so. The old adage goes, where there is a will there is a way. And I personally plan to get tough on alcohol.
It is a substance that is more than just harmful to an individual, it is harmful to whanau and to communities. Alcohol harm costs us $5 billion a year and the statistics paint a grim picture of nation. One in six adults has a potentially harmful drinking habit; three out of every four Maori adults are drinkers, with one of those three identifying themselves as binge drinkers; 300 alcohol related offences occur every day and one third of all police apprehensions are alcohol related.
This is why, as a nation, we must address these relentless social hazards within our community. We can turn the tide and we can start a movement that can change the future for many of our whanau in Aotearoa.
If we can do for alcohol, what we have done for smoking, then we can transform the future of this country, for the benefit of our tamariki and mokopuna.