OPINION: Calls from Labour to stop the "normalisation" of alcohol by sporting and cultural heroes appear to be predicated on the belief that drinking isn't a normal practice in New Zealand. Thousands of New Zealanders enjoy a drink after a hard day at work or playing sport.
Most of these people don't go out afterwards and commit crimes, but, unfortunately, there is a binge drinking element that contributes to the country's violent crime, family violence, drink-driving and disorder statistics.
Labour's associate health spokesman and Palmerston North MP Iain Lees Galloway has accused alcohol companies of bombarding New Zealanders, particularly young people, with advertising.
The use of sporting stars and cultural icons to promote drinking has caused Labour to push for further amendments to the Alcohol Reform Bill, which was prompted by the Law Commission's 2010 report.
The amendments include banning alcohol advertising near schools, and restricting it until after 9pm on television and on films with less than an R18 rating.
It is a gallant pursuit, and one with a genuine concern for the wellbeing of our youth, but we must remember that drinking alcohol is considered to be a normal and, for people over 18, legal activity.
We must always educate people about the dangers of drinking to excess and caution those who would promote it, but restricting advertising is not going to shield people from the the issues.
It would also be interesting to see if Labour has any research or evidence to back up assertions that alcohol advertising had an adverse affect on a youth's proclivity towards abusing alcohol.
Society is often too quick to blame the mass media for the ills of the world. The socialisation of young people by family and peers surely offers up far greater pressures and influences than a commercial featuring an All Black supping from a bottle of Steinlager.
But it's easier to blame advertisers than actually look into ways of dealing with the drinking culture within our society. Alcohol abuse is a real and serious problem in New Zealand, but the removal of a few ads alone is unlikely to deter young people from drinking.
It's great to see Manawatu companies doing well both nationally and internationally. A New Zealand Pharmaceuticals carbohydrate sugar used on people with a muscle-wasting disorder will soon be trialled in the United States, while Skycam UAV, on Palmerston North's Sutton Pl, has recently sold one of its drones to Auckland University, whose staff will use it to monitor the rare Maui dolphin population.
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