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Alcohol Taxation: The sharpest tool in the shed

Media Release

18 November 2005

Alcohol Taxation
The sharpest tool in the shed

Alcohol Healthwatch commends the Ministry of Social Development for its call for an increase in the tax on alcohol.

Director Rebecca Williams says that it is important to include price control measures in the debate. Raising the minimum purchase age has received a lot of attention and is an effective strategy. However, it can’t be relied upon to do all the work. A range of actions are needed and Alcohol Healthwatch has put taxation alongside four other policy approaches to lead their Action on Liquor campaign.

Williams says that the evidence shows that an increase in alcohol taxation is a fair and effective way to reduce harmful alcohol consumption. She says increased price has been shown to curb excessive single-occasion drinking, reduce moderate to heavy drinking as well as reduce youth drinking, as youth are particularly price sensitive. This is exactly what is needed in New Zealand.

The current tax system wastes a huge opportunity to effectively reduce harm, says Williams. Alcohol Healthwatch calls for alcohol excise tax to be primarily used as a tool to lower levels of alcohol-related harm through its recommendation for an increase in alcohol tax that will result in price increases.

Changes to the way tax is gathered and utilised are also recommended in order for the system to better target harms. Alcohol tax revenue must be channelled into harm prevention initiatives. Williams believes the public will support price increases if they can see that they, their families and communities are benefiting.

Alcohol-related harm costs New Zealand between $4-16 billion per year and this is borne by everyone in this country.

ENDS

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