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Stricter control needed over young drinkers

27 September 2006

Media release
Available immediate use

"Stricter control needed over young drinkers"
says Hospitality Association president

There's a need for a tougher attitude towards those who get liquored up at home and then head to town searching for trouble.

That was the message delivered by the Hospitality Association of New Zealand President, Bill McLean when his members gathered for their annual conference in Queenstown today.

He said that the retail industry had a lot to answer for with the way they're selling cheap booze to youngsters, when their stated intentions were quite different when they entered the market in the late 1980s.

"I am sure you remember the rhetoric from the supermarkets about how they would be responsible traders in liquor products.
"We were told repeatedly that they would not be aggressive retailers of alcohol products, that it was simply an adjunct to their food business," he said.

Mr McLean reminded his members about the retailers saying that:
"We would not see liquor products profiled prominently in supermarket stores and above all, the supermarkets promised there would not be aggressive pricing and would not be using alcohol products as loss leaders".

He said that the reality is that you can still go into a supermarket and buy beer for $10 a dozen.

"Or if wine's your favourite drop there's Lindauer often at $7.99 or other wine products as low as $5 a bottle.

"There is no question that supermarkets are using alcohol products as loss leaders and I'm not alone in the industry when I'm often purchasing a range of products off the supermarket shelves to retail in my bar simply because I can purchase it cheaper from the supermarket than I can directly from the manufacturer," he said.
He also pointed to a number of significant consequences as a result of beer and wine entering the supermarket trade.

"As a consequence we have seen a significant shift in the drinking patterns of kiwis.

"They increasingly consume their alcohol away from licensed premises in homes and in public places.

"Over the last decade we have seen consumption shift from 40% on-premise 60% off-premise to 30% on-premise 70% off-premise.

"This is undeniably price-driven, because over the same period we've had an explosion in the opportunities to consume alcohol in on-premise environments, which increasingly have food as a major focus.

He said that as a consequence of the changes, young people are increasingly consuming their alcohol at home, then come out late and concentrating on the hospitality precincts within urban environments.

"Often these young people [whether they are under or over 18] are not provided access to licensed premises which results in disorder and unfortunately gives the hospitality industry a bad name.

"As a consequence we now have the increasing emergence of liquor bans as a means of trying to limit the harm from these changes in our drinking habits.

Mr McLean said that very few of these consequences have anything to do with the normalisation of the age of purchase at 18.

"I believe that the changes in drinking patterns have more to do with other changes which have occurred to liquor legislation than the change in the age of purchase.

"Perhaps it is more about the constant erosion of individual responsibility which we are seeing in our society today.

"It is not illegal to get drunk, have a smoke, or even gamble too much. That is, unless any of those 3 activities are carried out on licensed premises.

"Even then, it does not become an illegal activity for the participant … rather it becomes a responsibility of the licensees.

"Perhaps the legislators would be better to look at the legislative environment which has removed the philosophy of individual responsibility rather than their current tunnel vision which seems to focus only on the age of purchase," he said.

Rather than remove the rights of 18 &19 year olds to buy alcohol products, the legislators would be better creating an environment where all of us, not only 18 & 19 year olds, had to take responsibility for their own actions and activities which are not consistent with being good citizens of NZ", he said.


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