Kiwi booze culture: Prohibition works

Last updated 05:00 06/01/2013

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John Murphy suggests we should introduce a vote for prohibition. New Zealand has voted for prohibition twice in the past but never got it.

Despite the popular misconception to the contrary, prohibition did succeed in the USA (and Finland, Iceland, Norway and Canada) in changing the way people approached alcohol and more importantly, in defusing the worst excesses of the powerful liquor industry. It was the context of the Great Depression that changed the landscape and the public's priorities.

But the prohibition of the early 20th Century was the result of 75 years of the temperance movement. That movement had very successfully demonstrated the social and public health issues associated with alcohol and established the issue and one of public health in the minds of voters. It was that evidence that convinced voters. In New Zealand now, the situation is very different.

The power of the industry in New Zealand in the 21st century was amply demonstrated when our government ignored all the evidence in the Law Commission's recommendations and Judith Collins backed out of meaningful changes. The lack of public outrage would seem to suggest that voters are either not aware of the evidence or - like our representatives - choose to ignore it.

So the evidence is clear. We know what will work but the will to act on the evidence is lacking. We will probably never get prohibition and perhaps it's not the answer. The evidence shows that action on price, availability and advertising would work to limit the damage this drug causes and I believe that if a government made changes in these areas the only voices in opposition would be the from the industry itself.

But it would seem this Government is more interested in pandering to those interests than in the health of its citizens.

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