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Addressing cheap alcohol needs to be on the table

Addressing cheap alcohol needs to be on the table

Media release: Alcohol Healthwatch/Hapai Te Hauora, 23 January 2018

Alcohol Healthwatch and Maori Public Health provider Hapai te Hauora strongly support the new Government’s commitment to addressing the growing needs and inequities surrounding mental health and addictions.

Anthony Hawke of Hapai te Hauora says, “The announcement of the Mental Health Inquiry is opportune as we mark the 5th birthday of our new liquor laws. The links between our growing problem with drinking and poor mental health need to be addressed. The Government was right to include addictions into the inquiry into mental health. In 2012 we had the chance to raise the price of alcohol and save lives. We didn't. Our communities paid the price. Now is the time for this to be remedied.”

Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch Dr Nicki Jackson, agrees.

“Alcohol has become considerably more affordable since our new laws were put in place. Drinking has become worse. The Government has stated that all solutions to improve our mental health are on the table – research shows that one solution to our shameful suicide rates is to raise the price of alcohol. This approach is particularly effective in reducing suicide among young males.”

Mr Hawke said that there was community support to raise alcohol prices.

“An increase in the tax on alcohol is fair: those who drink the most, pay the most. A tax increase will also target cheap drinks, particularly those bought at off-licences. It will hopefully mean fewer drinkers come to pubs in town already loaded up. And better mental health is better for everybody.”

Dr Jackson believes that the new year is a great time for New Zealand to reconsider its relationship with alcohol and the impact it has on our mental health.

“The most harmful drug in society is also one of the cheapest. Should we accept that, in 2018, you can buy a bottle of wine for $5.99? For one individual to save a few dollars, everyone pays the price. How many more lives need to be lost before we take serious action?”

Last week, Alcohol Healthwatch recommended in its submission to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee that the excise tax on alcohol be raised by 50 percent.

Dr Jackson says 20 percent of our country do not drink yet subsidise the costs of alcohol harm.

"Tax increases will have minimal impact on low-risk drinkers; heavier drinkers will be targeted. Cost savings to society are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Evidence-based excise tax increases will be a key component of our recommendations put to the Mental Health Inquiry,” she says.

ENDS

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