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Physicians weigh in on alcohol reform bill

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians New Zealand Media Release

Physicians weigh in on alcohol reform bill

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), along with other medical and addiction experts, is urging the government to act on the widespread calls for stronger measures to be included in the Alcohol Reform Bill which could make a significant difference to New Zealand’s heavy drinking culture.

The College represents physicians practising across 35 medical specialities, who routinely see the destructive impact of alcohol excess on patients and their families.

“More than 1,000 deaths a year in New Zealand are attributable to alcohol; these deaths could be prevented by reducing excess consumption,” RACP New Zealand President and paediatrician, Dr Morreau said.

“Obvious solutions such as pricing policies, restriction of marketing and advertising, treatment for alcohol dependence, and lowering of the drink-driving limit, have been left out of the Bill.

“We made evidence-based recommendations to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee, along with a huge number of other New Zealanders.

We are struggling to understand why our recommendations have not been included,” Dr Morreau said.

The effects of alcohol on the health and wellbeing of children are of paramount concern.

According to Dr Morreau, implementing the recommendations made in the Alcohol Reform Bill presents a unique opportunity to address public and physician concerns about alcohol, as one of the main drivers of child abuse in this country”.

The RACP is also disappointed by the lack of measures to address the ultra cheap price and irresponsible marketing of alcohol. “As a country we need to have the courage, in the same way as we have done for tobacco, to increase tax or introduce minimum unit pricing,” Dr Morreau said.

Treatment and rehabilitation for alcohol dependence also requires more support.

The Select Committee needed to signal further policy and action on treatment for alcohol addiction, according to addiction medicine expert and immediate past President of the RACP in New Zealand, Dr Geoff Robinson.

“Expert and public submissions advocated for more effective treatment options,” Dr Robinson said. “There needs to be a wide range of responsive and accessible treatment services that are well integrated across the health, education, social and justice sectors."

The Select Committee is commended for recommending 130 changes to the Alcohol Reform Bill.

However this bill has not gone far enough, and in its current form, will not significantly reduce the injury, violence, chronic disease and hospital admissions caused by excess alcohol consumption.

ENDS

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