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Government tackles alcohol-related harm

Thu, 24 June 2004

Government tackles alcohol-related harm

The Government today announced a major new programme, aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.

Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor said the programme would be funded by a small levy increase on alcohol sold in New Zealand, approved by government this week.

The programme, comprising a Culture Change campaign and a range of associated initiatives, was a big step towards reducing the huge economic and social costs of alcohol harm in New Zealand, he said.

"No one can deny that alcohol abuse is causing problems in New Zealand. I opened the local paper the other day and in two pages found nine stories demonstrating the harm and trouble that results from drinking too much.

"If we want to improve our drinking patterns, we have to change our drinking culture. The new campaign is a pro-active and comprehensive way of doing this."

The impact of the levy increase on the price of alcohol would be negligible, and in some cases non-existent, Mr O'Connor said.

"The major breweries have indicated they'll absorb the increase, so beer drinkers will notice no change. These companies should be congratulated - it shows they take the need to promote moderation seriously."

Other price changes will range from less than one cent per bottle of alcohol (in the case of unfortified wine), to no more than five cents a bottle (in the case of spirits).

Beer, Wine and Spirits Council Chief Executive Nicki Stewart supports the initiative, saying today: "our members support the strategic direction of this programme, and look forward to working with ALAC and other industry colleagues in its implementation".

Distilled Spirits Association Chief Executive Thomas Chin also backed the new campaign. "The Association's members are firm advocates of responsible drinking and we look forward to the programme's implementation and the positive results that follow." Funds from the levy increase will go to the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) for new work, and to enhance work already underway.

ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy said the council was delighted with both government and industry response to the levy.

"We've received great support for what we are trying to do, which is to tackle New Zealand's drinking culture head-on. The increase will allow us to implement a social marketing campaign, along with a whole range of strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm, including education, enforcement and community-based programmes."

The programme will be run over three years and will be regularly monitored and evaluated to ensure key performance indicators are met.

ENDS

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