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Govt policy based on an unpublished Masters’ project

Media Release – 15th July 2012

Government policy based on an unpublished Masters’ thesis project, at odds with the international peer-reviewed literature


Hon Judith Collins explained on TV1’s Close Up programme that the basis of her government’s policy of not including anything about price in the upcoming Alcohol Reform Bill is research conducted at the AUT.

In reference to raising the price of alcohol she quoted the findings of an AUT Masters’ thesis project stating: “The NZ research [the AUT research] has shown it is unlikely to make a scrap of difference to young binge drinkers”.

“This was really quite an extraordinary declaration by the Minister” said Professor Doug Sellman, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ.

“Government policy should be based on the best peer-reviewed international evidence available not unpublished Masters’ projects.”

“This research was not even primarily about pricing and drinking behaviour and was not measuring actual drinking behaviour but rather investigated intention to drink which can be quite different. This is why real life drinking behaviour is the standard in this area of research.”

“But this is not a criticism of the student or the supervisors. Students are learning how to do research during Masters’ projects, and are not expected to necessarily advance knowledge. The criticism is directed at the Minister and/or her advisors, who appear to be determined to remain in denial about the central place of pricing in reducing alcohol-related harm”.

“The international evidence is clear, National experts agree, the Law Commission recommended, the PM’s Scientific Advisor advises, and the majority of the public support, a rise in the price of alcohol in order to change the widespread heavy drinking culture that is doing so much damage to New Zealand, not only to drinkers themselves but to innocent others.”

“But Hon Judith Collins, backed by her Prime Minister, and cheered on by the alcohol industry continues to resist one of the most obvious things to do to begin to change NZ’s damaging drinking culture”.

Professor Jennie Connor, Head of Preventive and Social Medicine at Otago University is also dismayed at the misinformation being propagated about alcohol pricing.

“From the day the Law Commission’s report was released the Prime Minister has been saying that increasing the price of alcohol “doesn’t work”. IF the aim is to reduce hazardous drinking and the harm it causes, then there is no doubt that it works” she said.

“The usual approach is to increase excise tax, which has been shown consistently to reduce consumption and reduce to harm. The economic analysis for the Law Commission calculated that a 10% rise in alcohol prices would result in a net fall of $80 million NZD per year in health and healthcare costs alone”

“However, there are advantages of having a minimum unit price of alcohol along with increases in tax.”
“It has been established that hazardous drinkers spend less per unit of alcohol than others, and drinkers compensate for price increases by shifting to cheaper drinks. In the United States, the heaviest 10% of drinkers spend approximately $0.78 per drink compared with $4.75 per drink for the lightest 50% of drinkers.”

“Simulation studies in the UK and the US have demonstrated that targeting the price of the cheapest drinks has the most effect in reducing consumption”.

“There is strong evidence that raising the price of alcohol is the single most effective and easily enacted strategy to change heavy drinkers’ behaviour and thereby reduce alcohol-related harm to everyone”.

ENDS

Attached: Time_to_deal_with_cheap_alcohol.pdf

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