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JPA's E-News: June 2 2006

JPA's E-News

June 2nd 2006

Public consultation on the National Drug Policy is underway

As Minister responsible for this government’s illicit drug policy and Chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drugs I am involved in overseeing the implementation of the National Drug Policy. The National Drug Policy is a whole-of-government approach to addressing the harm resulting from tobacco, alcohol, and illicit and other drug use. Central to the Policy is the concept of preventing and minimising harm from drugs.

Public consultation is underway and submissions on the new draft National Drug Policy 2006-2011 are welcome. Submissions close on June 9

I invite you to make a submission on the National Drug Policy. The document can be downloaded from the National Drug Policy website: www.ndp.govt.nz

Strides made against tobacco use – next up alcohol

At the Drug Foundation's 2nd Annual Policy Roundtable conference in Wellington on 31 May 2006, I addressed the issue of young people and drugs.
There are all types of drugs out there aimed at enticing our youth into drug use. Methamphetamine, cannabis, party pills etc, which pose various degrees of danger and risk of harm. But tobacco first, and then alcohol, are the main culprits when you look at the numbers of New Zealanders suffering the serious effects of drug abuse.
Giant steps have been made in the campaign against tobacco use and I believe evidence-based action can also deliver success against alcohol and other substance abuse as well.
Progress in and around alcohol policy is being made with initiatives like the government review of alcohol advertising, the ALAC culture change campaign and the consideration by a parliamentary select committee of a Member's Bill to raise the purchasing age of alcohol back to 20 years. That Bill is to be reported back to Parliament in September and means all parliamentarians will have the opportunity to debate and vote on a measure, which I believe the evidence strongly supports.
As the day of the Roundtable conference was 31 May and also World Smoke-free Day, I suggested we aim for a day free of alcohol and the associated violence and harm that the evidence shows flows from the misuse of alcohol.


Full speech to the Drug Foundation Policy Roundtable conference is at:
http://www.beehive.govt.nz/ViewDocument.aspx?DocumentID=25980

Excerpt from the speech …

Youth binge drinking is not just a New Zealand problem and other countries are grappling with it as well. In Scotland, legislation was recently introduced to stop irresponsible drinking promotions in licensed bars like, “buy one and get one free” or “ $2 double spirit nights” aimed at youth. This type of pricing often leads to excessive drinking, such as ordering 4 glasses at a time, and can and does result in tragedy.

So there are many steps being taken here and internationally. I realise for some, these steps may seem too small, too slow, and too conservative but just look at what has been achieved with tobacco and take heart.

And it is conferences like these, and the research being undertaken by many of you here, that is vital for continuing evidence based action in the area of alcohol policy. The bottom line is that we all want to see youth drinking statistics go down and to see a change in the “high-risk” drinking culture in New Zealand – a culture that accepts drunkenness and binge drinking as the social norm. We all have a responsibility to play our part.

Individuals and communities can and do make a difference. We have seen this with methamphetamine. Various communities have announced a rahui or a ban on using or dealing in P or pure methamphetamine. This was due to an acknowledgement of the undercurrent of violence and criminal activity associated with it in the community.


ALCOHOL FREE DAY HAS SUPPORT

The Associate Minister of Health, Hon Jim Anderton’s call for an alcohol free day has received support from The Salvation Army

“Alcohol is a product that plays an important part in the celebration of life in New Zealand. But we do need to stop and reflect occasionally as a nation on the enormous damage being caused by the prevailing culture of alcohol use,” said Major Campbell Roberts, Director of The Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

“Social and community services are frequently being asked to engage with families where the inappropriate use of alcohol leads to abuse, violence and the absence of basic necessities for healthy family living.”

“The Salvation Army deals daily with the damage caused to individuals who, when they were younger, were exposed to patterns of alcohol use that has caused permanent damage to their social and cognitive functioning. We have real fears for the future of some young people whose patterns of binge drinking may lead to future health damage and addiction,” said Major Roberts.

The Salvation Army Bridge Addiction Services sees the heavy cost on individuals, families and communities where people become addicted to alcohol. These individuals require extensive and expensive treatment options to deal with their addiction. There is a heavy economic and productivity cost for New Zealand during the development of an addiction and its treatment phase.”

A national Alcohol Free Day where New Zealanders have the opportunity to reflect and be educated on the costs of abusing alcohol could only be beneficial. It would also give the country the opportunity to consider the relatively easy availability of alcohol, and whether the alcohol industry should be allowed to continue to have the impact and influence that it does on our national life and culture.


ENDS

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