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Changing Kiwi culture: It's the boozers

JOHN MCCALL
Last updated 10:56 31/12/2012

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It is not alcohol that is the problem. It is those consuming it. While New Zealand has this infantile binge-drinking booze culture among a small percentage of the drinking population it will continue.

There is a small-minded group of people who consider alcohol as a drug and wail for it to be banned. The claim that raising the price, banning supermarkets from selling alcohol, reducing the number of outlets, etc will reduce binge-drinking is dreamland stuff.

Equally, the continued comparison with smoking is misleading and incorrect. These proponents demand that alcohol prices be increased because it worked for smoking, peddling the emotive argument that alcohol is a drug. I have enjoyed a few drinks now and then for over 40 years and I am certainly not addicted to it and don't depend on it. Those that do, do so for other reasons not because of any perceived drug-addiction characteristcs in alcohol.

It is ignorant to state that consuming alcohol is unhealthy etc in the same breath as saying it is unhealthy to smoke. That is comparing apples with pears. There are many thousands of people who enjoy a quiet drink now and then and stop after two or three drinks. Why should this vast majority of harmless drinkers be penalised to satisfy the whims of the anti-alcohol brigade? Especially as it will have zero effect on the binge-drinkers. (Please don't come back with the tired old "for thë greater good" argument).

No matter how much the price is increased it will not stop the binge-drinkers. The successful anti-social pressures would have far more effect as happened with smoking, price increases played a small part. To have any effect on binge-drinkers alcohol prices would have to be raised so much that no-one would be able to afford alcohol. This is tantamount to banning alcohol consumption. Sorry, that is not the answer.

One cigarette is harmful and affects those nearby whereas one drink is not harmful and has no effect on those nearby. At the end of the day, it is about education and peer pressure highlighting the anti-social behaviour that binge-drinkers portray of themselves that will have the most effect.

As for under-age drinking, it is high time the authorities targetted the under-age drinkers and not the sellers of alcohol, a soft target. Instead of setting up these outlets by entrapment they should be infiltrating those outlets and demanding ID from these young people. If they are under-age they should be taken away and charged as they are breaking the law. But, of course, this is all too hard and politically unattractive.

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This whole debate requires integrity and intelligent arguments. The anti-alcohol brigade bandy emotive half-truths about alcohol and is unproductive and clouds the real issues. It is time they put their emotive language aside and discussed the issue practically and with scientific research to support their arguments.


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