Changing Kiwi booze culture: It starts with the drinker

Last updated 05:00 14/12/2012
Wine glasses
HAD ENOUGH? Many Kiwis don't know what a standard drink is.

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According to the Health Ministry, 78 per cent of New Zealanders who drink do so moderately. But 22 per cent of New Zealanders who drink have a 'potentially hazardous drinking pattern'.

Shifting this 22 percent of drinkers in to a space where they are not putting themselves or others at risk must start with self-reflection and individual action to change behaviour.

There are some big gaps in people's knowledge about alcohol. Without good information it's impossible to make good choices.

For example, 61 per cent of New Zealanders don't know that a standard drink is a drink containing 10grams of pure alcohol - because that's all the alcohol an average person can process in one hour. And 10 per cent of New Zealanders have never heard the term 'standard drink'.

How can people make good choices about alcohol if many don't even have a basic level of knowledge about what they are drinking?

We also need to be careful about propagating the idea that we are a nation of binge drinkers. The Health Ministry's data tells us we're not. Rather, it is normal for New Zealanders who drink, to drink moderately.

If we tell people that binging is normal, then there is no incentive not to. After all, humans are pack animals, desperate to fit in with how the group behaves, perceived or real.

We need to promote safe and sociable drinking - help people understand this is what's normal, and support them to moderate their behaviour to fit. Improving people's alcohol consciousness is key.

Last month, the Brewer's Association, Distilled Spirits Association and New Zealand Winegrowers launched Cheers! The site is part of a larger social change initiative designed to give New Zealanders the information and tools they need to make better choices about how they drink.

Jessica Venning-Bryan is the Programme Director of Cheers!

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