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Alcohol rules will inevitably be tightened again

17 June 2008

Alcohol rules will inevitably be tightened again

The rising harm caused by alcohol means the pendulum has to swing back against ever more liberal alcohol legislation sooner or later, Progressive leader Jim Anderton said today.

He is the minister in charge of the government's drug policy, and said alcohol was by far New Zealand's most destructive drug.

"As long as we have a culture of tolerating alcohol abuse, we are going to have alcohol-related crime, and alcohol-created harm," Jim Anderton said.

"In recent years, we have made alcohol much more available. It is inevitable that over time the pendulum will swing the other way because of the harm alcohol is causing.

"Lifting the drinking age, allowing more alcohol advertising, and promoting the sale of liquor in more places for longer hours all adds up. It's no coincidence that alcohol related harm is also up.

"The biggest problem is the culture that tolerates very heavy drinking and legitimises alcohol abuse. There are a chorus of bashers shouting down anyone who points out New Zealand's alcohol problem.

"The alcohol abuse industry uses sneering terms like 'fun-police' and 'nanny state' whenever they are held to account.

"The alcohol industry does its bit to promote a culture of poor social attitudes to alcohol. For example, stories about the guidelines on binge drinking being reduced in Australia to two drinks appear to have been generated by alcohol industry mischief. They are trying to discredit some sensible advice to government showing that after a couple of drinks, the health risks of alcohol use start to climb. That just shows how the liquor industry fuels an irresponsible drinking culture."

Jim Anderton said the ministerial committee on drug policy is currently waiting for a report on the issue of increasing alcohol content in "alcopops", a growing favourite drink of younger New Zealanders.

"It is entirely possible that it will recommend guidelines that promote reduced use of alcohol. It is also possible we will recommend a tightening of alcohol rules. That would be my preference as Progressive Party leader as well as Ministerial Committee chair."


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