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Who is advising the Prime Minister on alcohol reform?

3 July 2012

Who is advising the Prime Minister on alcohol reform?

Mr Key announced today that he doesn’t believe that minimum pricing for alcohol will change the amount people drink.

“This is contrary to the scientific evidence base about alcohol pricing in general and minimum pricing in particular” said Prof Jennie Connor, medical spokeperson for Alcohol Action NZ.

“Mr Key states that what typically happens is people move down ‘the quality curve’ and still get access to alcohol. Where does this information come from? On the contrary, minimum pricing specifically targets the very cheapest alcohol options and is predicted to reduce average consumption by removing high-alcohol low-cost products from the market.”

“A recent Canadian study has shown that a 10% increase in the minimum price of alcohol reduces its consumption by 16% relative to other drinks”.

“And these latest data are consistent with the scientific literature which indicates that increasing the price of alcohol has a positive impact on reducing heavy drinking”.

“It appears that the most effective option will be to combine a minimum unit price with progressive excise tax increases” said Professor Connor.

“Increasing excise tax increases was recommended by the Law Commission based on decades of evidence that it reduces consumption, but Mr Key is on record as saying that it won’t work. Where is his evidence for that?”

“It is embarrassing hearing the Prime Minister making unsubstantiated and defensive statements to counter effective alcohol policies” added Prof Doug Sellman, another medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ.

“Is the PM listening to his Chief Science Advisor, Prof Sir Peter Gluckman about effective alcohol policy? Is he asking Prof Gluckman to advise him on what the science tells us about effective alcohol policy?”

“It would be a great relief to hear him begin to talk straight about New Zealand’s alcohol crisis and about what needs to be done to begin fixing it, rather than engaging in smoke screening obfuscation”.

“The PM’s statements reek of alcohol industry influence.”

“We have already observed how the PM’s speeches have used virtually the very same words that alcohol industry’s PR advisors have formulated in the past for its representatives to use in public to move conversation away from effective law reform such as raising the price, like this: “There are a lot of responsible drinkers and we don't want to unduly affect them”.

“The alcohol industry knows better than probably anyone else that the price of alcohol is a strong signal and influences consumers, including their favourite customers, heavy drinkers.”

“But there is no magic bullet. Price alone will not change New Zealand’s heavy drinking culture, nor will any other single measure, including raising the purchase age. The Alcohol Reform Bill needs a suite of reinforcing measures that include dismantling the marketing, raising the price, decreasing the accessibility and lowering the drink driving limit.

“This is the opposite of what the PM’s advisors appear to be telling him”.

ENDS

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