Editorial: Politicians retreat from booze barons
WARWICK RASMUSSEN - DEPUTY EDITOR
OPINION: Whatever alcohol lobbyists are doing, it seems to be working.
Over a matter of months they've turned things strongly in their favour when it comes to RTDs (pre-mixed drinks) and the strength these can be sold at.
Those "lolly water" or "alcopop" drinks are generally sugary sweet concoctions masking a high alcohol content, and are aimed at younger drinkers.
Originally, a series of planned reforms included a limit of 5 per cent alcohol by volume for RTDs. On Justice Minister Judith Collins' watch, that was bumped up to 6 per cent. Now that idea has been shelved. Collins said: "The Government has decided to give the alcohol industry the opportunity to introduce its own measures to limit the harm to young people caused by RTDs."
She then added: "The industry has offered to put in place a voluntary code on RTDs. If the industry measures are ineffective, Government has the ability to take action through a regulation-making power in the bill."
Collins has effectively washed her hands of this particular aspect of the law reform. Allowing alcohol companies to self-regulate means, well, nothing will change. They have no incentive or disincentive to change. Their main motivation is profit, and minimising alcohol-related harm is much further down the priority list.
Lowering the alcohol content on RTDs would have been one of the more effective tools to curb binge drinking and the related social issues it can cause.
Raising the age would help, but underage drinkers will always find a way to get booze.
The main drivers for many young drinkers are price and alcohol content, and addressing those will effect the most drastic change.
RTDs are not the reason for binge drinking - the problem had already been around for decades - but they did help escalate the issue, especially after the drinking age was lowered to 18.
The Government needs to take alcohol reform recommendations more seriously.
This decision is a victory for the alcohol companies. The cigarette firms will certainly be heartened by it as they battle the plans for plain packaging.
The Chiefs will even have more of a Manawatu feel next year, with the addition of Turbos captain Nick Crosswell.
The Feilding flanker has plied his trade at the Highlanders for the past couple of years and although he will be leaving behind Manawatu All Black Aaron Smith, he will be reuniting with another, Aaron Cruden, as well as former mentor Dave Rennie. It is still a bit weird, though, that none of Manawatu's best play for the "local" Hurricanes franchise.
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