Health chiefs urge liquor crackdown

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014

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Bigger taxes on alcohol and tougher liquor laws are needed from the incoming government, a group of health leaders say.

The group of 37 - including bishops, doctors and professors - likened alcohol law reform to the battle against tobacco, with progress blocked by intense lobbying from the industry.

"I don't think we should underestimate the influence of the liquor industry," said Geoffrey Robinson, Capital & Coast District Health Board chief medical officer. "They are a powerful lobby."

In a statement to the next government, the group said that, to stem New Zealand's "endemic heavy binge-drinking" culture, a liquor tax hike was needed, along with a minimum drink price and the eventual ban of alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

Signatories include leaders of most main churches, medical associations and schools.

Robinson said that, despite community concern about other drugs, such as synthetic cannabis, alcohol remained by far the most damaging. "Working as an addiction clinician, alcohol is by far and away the main problem. It's New Zealand's favourite drug."

The statement said alcohol killed nearly 1000 people a year, with about half arising from drunken injuries or suicide.

Robinson said the latest statement was about keeping alcohol reform on the political agenda. "I'm very keen that alcohol legislation doesn't get put on the back burner for the another 30 years."

Justice Minister Judith Collins has ruled out minimum prices for drinks or tax hikes for at least five years.

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- The Dominion Post

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