I was getting ready to write about my disappointment with the Government’s just-announced liquor law “reforms” when I read this commentary by Garth George in the Herald.

I couldn’t think of a word I’d change, and so I thought, why bother?

His title says it all … Phoney booze war lack firepower! I urge you to read the entire piece, but to give you just a flavour …

“[The Government plans] are mostly nothing more than typical political compromises, designed to offend as few people as possible and cover political arses, while giving the appearance of doing something worthwhile.

Not only has it had a dollar each way on the drinking age, the Government has refused to increase the price of alcohol by upping excise taxes. It has declined to consider restricting advertising to point of sale and outlawing alcohol-related sponsorships. It has not even given a thought to removing alcohol from supermarkets, although it has picked on convenience stores and hasn’t forbidden blatant discounting, will only “investigate” minimum pricing; and has refused to reduce the drink-driving limit from .08 to .05.”

“Much is being made of the plan to make it illegal to supply under-18s with alcohol without parental consent. Yet the parental consent proposals are as full of holes as a net stocking.”

“Also missing from proposals is any attempt to provide additional treatment facilities for those with alcohol addiction, which will always happen irrespective of the stringency of the liquor laws.”

Do you want to know how he really feels?

“If the Government’s proposals for changes to the liquor laws are, as it says, an ‘all-out war on youth binge drinking’, then it’s destined to have about as much success as the campaign to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in World War I.”

Finally …

“So when all this posturing, pandering and pussy-footing comes into law – and the effect on our booze culture is zero – just remember you read it here first.”

Amen!

Tom Belford

P.S. And of course none of the changes are proposed to go into effect until after next year’s Rugby World Cup. It would appear sport cannot survive in New Zealand — or anywhere else in the world, for that matter — without alcohol industry sponsorship.

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4 Comments

  1. Alcohol Consumption In Nz.

    Now, I would not have believed that the current discussion of the alcohol 'problem' in NZ was simply a replication of the contrived 'obesity epidemic' wherein the scale used to indicate obesity was changed, and this to the extent that those subsequently categorised as within the healthy range were having more health problems than those within the slightly obese range. But then I saw this …

    “… our nation’s appalling drinking statistics” would appear to be almost totally derived from surveys and anecdotal evidence, and from this a rather tenuous leap made to attribute cause.

    The survey statistics themselves, (http://www.aphru.ac.nz/projects/alcohol%202000%20results1.htm#_ftn1and http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesmh/5855/File/alcohol-use-in-new-zealand-2004.doc), could very well reflect changed attitudes towards drinking rather than be indicative of increased consumption, let alone ‘binge drinking’ – there does not appear to be available absolute quantities of alcohol sold juxtaposed with reputed consumption. This would proffer some validity to the consumption figures presented as most alcohol purchased is reputedly consumed within 24 hours of purchase. An increase of 2 litres per annum may well be a 21% increase in consumption (1995-2000) but it is not a great deal – two and a half bottles of wine over a year. It may also reflect a change in the definition of a standard drink, from 15 gm absolute alcohol to 10 (2004).I would have thought the postulated relationships with disease entities are simply that, ‘postulated.’Alcohol is an hypnosedative that has both predicable (tiredness, slowness of response) and unpredictable effects (disinhibition or reduced impulse control). Alcohol being associated with an event does not make it causative of that event. Intent is more often than not pre existing, and alcohol or other consumption occurs to expedite that event e.g. burglaries, violence, suicide, etc.I guess with no or minimal corresponding reduction in cancers resulting from the anti tobacco lobby it is easy to attribute their occurrence to anything else that can be seen as a ‘commodity of potential abuse.’ ‘Have you had more than six standard drinks at one sitting? Has this happened more than x times? Have you ever been unable to recall everything that occurred the day after?’ Poorly quantified correlation studies can be overly inclusive and quite specious.The charge of Sir Geoffrey and cohorts I see as quite populist and simplistic … the impact of unemployment, DPB., pretended high numbers in tertiary education and other ‘hidden’ means of taking structure or routine and meaning and value out of peoples lives is more the essence of this issue than what is being addressed.This is simply ‘well-intentioned’ wowserism, fortified by applying different criteria as to what constitutes ‘excess.’

    And indeed … a

    Standard drink

    In New Zealand, a standard drink is defined as the amount of beverage that contains 10 grams (or 12.67 millilitres) of absolute (pure) alcohol (ALAC 2004).

    This definition of a standard drink differs from the definition used in the previous national surveys on alcohol use in New Zealand (Habgood et al 2001; Wyllie et al 1996), where a standard drink referred to 15 grams of absolute alcohol.

    So now, drinking the same, we are drinking one third more!

    Perhaps it is time that our political scientists returned to their core business, to endeavour to regain considerable of their lost integrity … for this is simply appears more mirepresentation of information in pursuance of an agenda.

    So, Tom, as kids, we drank more. The difference I think is largely that at that time alcohol was cheaper … so we didn't need to get 'tanked up' prior to going out to enjoy the entertainment.

    It really is an artefact of cost … of contingencies or constraints … not too dissimilar from the 'six oclock swill.'

    The issue is in air quality Tom … not the water … not the alcohol. The Hawkes Bay has a fine reputation for its wine and some of its ripe fruitfulness entirely deserves its associated sensorially explosive 14% alcohol mantle.

    Wowserism as a hawkes bay regional councillor (note the lower order characters) just doesn't and wont cut it.

  2. Morton, I sense that you have a dislike for "liberal do-gooding". I can understand people not appreciating a "nanny-state". Also that people do not want to have their options or behaviour seemingly curtailed, when it is something that they enjoy.

    I also remember the horrors of the six-o'clock swill. I remember that women could not have cheque accounts or own homes and many other bigoted and uninformed behaviours from that time. Heavy smoking was the norm for 75% of the population (it is 25% now and dropping), and driving while drunk was considered OK. Lets see, nearly 40 years ago, my friend was mourning her mother and very angry because her mother was killed on a pedestrian crossing at 9am in the morning by a drunk driver who was then disqualified from driving for six months, but was permitted to drive for his job. Those were heady days we would rather forget and we have come a long way, but there is a long way to go.

    It might be useful to consider the following:

    1. The key people that are making this stand are highly regarded health professionals and they do have an agenda. To make New Zealand a safer place. They have nothing to gain individually and none of them are teetotal. They use their own valuable time to promote this cause because they are good people who care about important issues, and they work with the sequelae of drinking every day.

    2. The measures proposed will not impinge on the individual adults ability to drink as much or as often as she or he wishes.

    3. The measures do however, seek to restrict availability and promotion and raise the price (particularly for very cheap alcohol), which will have an impact on sales, which it has done for tobacco.

    4. The only reason to not implement these measures is to protect business interest without regard to the effect on the consumer.

    5. It is not surprising then, that the term "Big Alcohol" is being coined, in the vein of "Big Tobacco".

    6. Over-production of wine with little profit margin, at the expense of other healthier crops does not particularly advantage the Bay.

    7. I cannot think of a single way in which the proposed measures will impact on Hawkes Bay's reputation for good wine

    There is nothing to fear in the proposed changes. They are recommended by the World Health Organisation and are simply sensible. Some day in the future (sadly it is looking like a long way off) we will be wondering what the fuss was about.

    Please, everyone reading this comment, please come along to Chris Tremaines meeting on Monday 30 August at 5.30 at the Clive Square Memorial Rooms. He wants to judge public opinion about alcohol law reform.

  3. Fran, another meeting with Chris Tremain.?

    I thought Chris got the message,(as per your commnets at the last meeting at Memorial Square.?

    And again, in 1986, The comprehensive Roper Report,(studying violent offending) gave the Government of the day, a suggestion to build Habilitation Centres in the community, not to punish or treat alcoholics in prison,( A place of much violence.) Votes again determined a negative outcome from Government.

    Recently I returned from Norway. Norwegians, like ourselves have a drink problem, but in no way do they expect incarceration to treat, what they consider is a community problem (more adequately government funded Springhills"

    are cheaper and more effective than a prison.)

  4. I agree – these are Clayton's policies – look like you're doing something, but don't upset anyone. It's election year next year.

    I disagree with the 'tax and hide' tobacco approach though. While these policies have worked for cigarettes, I'm not sure they will for alcohol. The big difference is it won't kill you in moderation and few want to give up drinking. They have huge alcohol taxes in places like Sweden, but some very serious alcohol issues. I don't like policies that punish the moderate majority, while trying to target the troublesome minority. The tobacco approach wanted to target all smokers; the alcohol issue, only some drinkers. It's time to start saying that public drunkeness is not OK. Let's target the offenders.

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