Al­co­hol: an­other bad habit need­ing ac­tion

South Waikato News - - OPINION - By TAR­I­ANA TURIA

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.

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