Call to ban alcohol in supermarkets after cameras reveal over-exposure to children
New Zealand children are being exposed to alcohol nearly every time they go to the supermarket, sparking a call from researchers to have it banned from such stores.
The over-exposure of alcohol to children put it on par with everyday products such as bread and milk, causing children to drink alcohol earlier in their life, Tim Chambers from Otago University's Department of Public Health said.
The department's research found that 85 per cent of children were exposed to alcohol in Wellington supermarkets.
"This suggests alcohol is just another ordinary commodity, just another product on the shelves, a normal part of the grocery shop," said Chambers, the lead researcher.
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He said the study proved previous changes in alcohol advertising laws were not enough and the Government needed to ban it from supermarkets to protect children.
The study had 167 randomly chosen Wellington children aged 11 to 13-years-old wear a necklace camera and GPS device for four consecutive days.
Over that time, the children visited 30 different supermarkets and saw alcohol on 78 of those visits.
Chambers said the technology allowed for an uninterrupted, first-hand account of what children saw day-to-day.
Over the four days of the study, none of the children were taken into a liquor store by their parents, he said.
Chambers said that "surprising" finding proved parents were already choosing not to show alcohol to their children, but the selling and advertising of it in supermarkets eliminated that "free choice".
"Children are not meant to be exposed it, it is in the legislation."
The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act requires supermarkets to only sell and promote alcohol in a single, non-prominent area of a store, not throughout it.
The Advertising Standards Authority's (ASA) code for advertising and promoting alcohol states that the marketing and in-store placement of products should not appeal to any one under 18-years-old.
He said he and the researchers of the study were calling for the Government to repeal the law that allows supermarkets to sell alcohol.
Countdown alcohol responsibility manager Paul Radich said from the findings he had seen, it appeared that the majority of children in the study did not visit a supermarket over the four days. The 85 per cent referred to the children who had visited a supermarket, he said.
Radich said parents could avoid their children seeing alcohol by not taking them into the single area of a supermarket where it was sold.
"Regardless of where alcohol is purchased, children are most likely to see alcohol when it is being consumed in the home," Radich said.
Cheers.org.nz executive director Matt Claridge said he thought banning alcohol from stores would not improve New Zealand's drinking culture.
He said parents' alcohol drinking behaviour influenced children's future drinking habits, not what they put in their trolley.
"Product placement does not really matter, it's about intentions to drink it and that starts at home," Claridge said.
"As consumers, marketing will always try to influence us. When it comes to alcohol, it is what mum and dad get up to you [that influences children]."
Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said the supermarket co-operative that owns New World, Pak 'n Save and Liquorland, declined to comment because she did not have access to the research.
The ASA has been contacted for comment.