Changing Kiwi booze culture: Time to address the elephant in the pub

Last updated 05:00 21/01/2013

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Changing the Kiwi booze culture

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New Zealand has far too many problem alcohol users. This has been accepted as fact by most interested parties.

The costs can be measured in different ways and to get a true picture of alcohol related harm, such costs should be described and measured accurately.

Clearly more needs to be done, and it seems obvious that our present Government is not interested in taking any action that might make a real difference to the harms and costs to our society of some people's out of control drinking behaviour.

I disagree with prohibition; it didn't work in the USA. Why don't we follow the recommendations of the Law Commission's report instead?

The Government asked for expert opinion and then, because they (or possibly vested business interests?) didn't like the opinions they got, decided to ignore most of them. It would be interesting to discover how much is really spent each weekend by emergency departments, the police, and the week after by the courts with the time taken up with alcohol related crises.

Would our EDs be so crammed at the weekends without alcohol related issues clogging up the departments (and let's get some real statistics here, please). Ditto for police call outs for domestic violence incidence, traffic incidents, non accidental injury to babies and children, preventable harm, etc.

It makes sense to treat alcohol the way we are treating tobacco smoking: stop promotion, address marketing strategies, plain packaging, decrease alcohol content of ready mixed drinks, put the prices way up and increase the tax take; the obvious, already suggested and ignored strategies.

I think we all need to acknowledge the elephant in the pub. Why has the Government chosen to ignore the expert advice they've been given on this issue? Let's unpack that and see what biases are unearthed there.

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