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Scotch Those Myths

Distillers are putting in last ditch lobbying efforts this week to ensure spirits are sold alongside wine and beer on supermarket shelves.

Distilled Spirits Association Chief Executive Officer Thomas Chin said the conscience vote is completely unpredictable and it would be unfair to penalise a category of consumer or to single out a certain type of beverage.

The spirits industry faces a situation where some MPs’ decisions may be reached on grounds that totally disregard fairness and commonsense.

Mr Chin said his members were keen to scotch some of the popular misconceptions and superstitions surrounding liquor.

“It is irrational that some people believe spirits are not accompaniments to food and therefore they should not be sold in supermarkets. The reality is that spirits are regularly enjoyed and consumed before, during or after dining - the same as wine and beer.

“Perceptions that wine and beer is somehow less harmful than spirits is difficult to reconcile when alcohol is alcohol regardless of whether the drink has been distilled, brewed or vinted. A measure of spirits neat or in a mixer is the same in alcohol content as an average glass of table wine and a glass of ordinary strength beer.

“The pattern of drinking is important, not how the drink is made and there is no evidence that spirit drinkers alcohol consumption is greater than that of beer and wine drinkers”, said Mr Chin.

Thomas Chin adds: “We see no logical justification why all types of liquor should not be permitted for sale in supermarkets. Allowing the full range of liquor only puts us on a par with most countries including Australia, Britain, Ireland and the United States”.

ENDS [see attached “Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill: Q+A”]

Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill: Q + A

The Bill provides for supermarkets and grocery stores to be able to sell all types of liquor, rather than just table wine as at present. As there is a huge public interest in this issue, we answer some of the more frequently asked questions.

What happens overseas?

Many countries permit the sale of all types of spirits, beer and wine in their supermarkets. Consumers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, UK, and USA (23 states) - to mention a few, can buy all their drinks supplies with their groceries. There are no special problems in any of these respective countries.

Won’t supermarkets give minors easier access?

No. Operators have been selling table wine, sparkling wine, cider, low alcohol beer, home brew kits and in some stores vermouth, port and sherries, for almost 10 years, with no prosecuted history of sales to minors. Selling all types of spirits, beer and wine will be no different. All licensed premises have the same legal and moral responsibility to ensure minors are not served.

Aren’t spirits “harder” than beer and wine?

No. Alcohol is alcohol regardless of whether the drink has been distilled, brewed or vinted. In simple terms, as defined by the Alcohol Advisory Council, a measure of spirits neat or in a mixer is the same in alcohol content as an average glass of table wine and a glass of ordinary strength beer (10 grams alcohol). The pattern of drinking is important, not how the drink is made.

Aren’t only beer and wine drinks of moderation?

No. There is no beverage of moderation - only a practice of moderation. It is not what you drink that is important, but how much you drink that counts.

Won’t increased availability lead to increased consumption?

No. Total consumption has been in a downward trend over the past decade - during a period in which licence numbers have mushroomed from 6,000 in 1989 to 12,000 today. New Zealanders do not drink more just because product is easier to buy.

Isn’t wine the only accompaniment to food?

No. Spirits and beer are also regularly enjoyed and consumed before, as an accompaniment to, and before or after dining - the same as wine. Most people’s experiences would confirm this.

Won’t there be huge social problems?

No. Dire predictions of societal collapse did not eventuate with the introduction of wine sales in supermarkets in 1990. Nor will they eventuate with the sale of all types of alcohol beverages. Excessive and irresponsible consumption causes problems, but only among a small minority of drinkers - and for reasons that are nothing to do with licensing legislation. It is not possible to control, determine or modify people’s drinking behaviour by controlling what they drink and where they buy their drinks.

Won’t existing retailers go out of business?

There will always be plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs with vision, creativity, and awareness of trends within the market. Small retail stores and formats will continue to be relevant as their customers will always be attracted by convenience of location, atmosphere, personal and specialist service and selection.

What do New Zealanders want?

Kiwis are comfortable with the convenient and competitive environment of supermarkets selling wine. Over 40% of all wine sold in New Zealand goes through supermarkets. This clearly reflects shoppers’ confidence in buying their drinks supplies from supermarkets.

What’s the official view?

Reviews by the Working Party on Liquor (1986), the Committee on the Sale of Liquor Bill (1989) and the Liquor Review Advisory Committee (1997) recommended that all spirits, beer and wine be entitled to be sold in supermarkets. Ministries and agencies including the Alcohol Advisory Council, Commerce, Police, Transport, and Youth Affairs support or have no objection to all spirits, beer and wine being treated the same at supermarket retail.

Note: The Distilled Spirits Association represents New Zealand’s leading producers and marketers of spirits and liqueurs. It’s goal is to ensure spirits are sold on equal terms with all other alcohol beverages.


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