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Increase booze prices; decrease the harm

18 November, 2005
Increase booze prices; decrease the harm

The New Zealand Drug Foundation today endorsed the recommendation made by the Ministry of Social Development that alcohol and tobacco prices should be raised.

"Raising the price of these products is one of the most effective ways of tackling the problems created by these legal drugs," said executive director Ross Bell.

"Alcohol and tobacco kill 6000 New Zealanders every year and create more problems than any other drug, so we must consider all ways to reduce the harm from these substances.

"Young people are particularly sensitive to price and when you look at one of the areas of greatest concern, it's that young New Zealanders are drinking and smoking their way towards serious health problems," he said.

"Let's be clear, this is not a revenue-gathering issue; this is an issue of how to deal with a significant public health problem in New Zealand.

"The alcohol and tobacco industry are opposed to increased prices simply because they know that it works. They are protecting their business at the expense of public health."

The World Health Organisation recognises that alcohol tax is one of the most effective ways to reduce harm. Raising the price of alcohol can reduce alcohol-related harm, including levels of crime and violence.

Higher alcohol prices both reduce the amounts consumed by heavier drinkers and help prevent moderate drinkers becoming heavier drinkers.

Other recommendations contained in the MSD report include:

- enforcing and improving regulations around alcohol and tobacco,

- using education campaigns to raise awareness and change behaviours, and

- expanding effective programmes that deal with illicit drug abuse.

"It's important that moves to increase the price on these substances are included with a package of measures to reduce the harm. We recommend that excise tax on these products be ringfenced and invested back into tackling the problems.

"Raising the price alone will help, but the greatest impact will be using a range of measures that are shown to be effective in reducing the harm caused by all legal and illegal drugs in New Zealand," said Mr Bell.


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