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Tax review fails to heed calls for urgency on alcohol tax

Alcohol Healthwatch warns a business as usual approach to alcohol harm in our country represents a lost opportunity to significantly improve the mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

Executive Director Dr Nicki Jackson says “with the increasing affordability of alcohol in our country, we hoped the Tax Working Group would take the opportunity to call for urgent action to save lives and reduce harm.”

The Tax Working Group’s final report recommends that the Government review the rate structure of alcohol excise tax. Dr Jackson says that we cannot afford to wait whilst New Zealanders continue to pay the unacceptable social, economic and health costs associated with the most harmful drug in our country.

“Each year, over 800 New Zealanders die prematurely as a result of alcohol. Today you can buy alcohol for as little as 68 cents per standard drink. Strong evidence shows that increasing the price of alcohol is the most effective strategy to reduce consumption and harm.”

“The tax review was all about fairness. But how is it fair that every New Zealander picks up the multi-billion-dollar tab for alcohol harm? Our DHBs are currently crying out for financial help. These costs are preventable” says Dr Jackson.

UMR polling this month showed that 80% of New Zealanders believed that societal action needs to be taken to reduce alcohol-related harm. Almost two in every three New Zealanders supported increasing the price of alcohol as long as the extra money could be used for mental health and addiction services.

“If we want to improve wellbeing in our country, we urgently need to address our drinking culture. Now, not later. Alcohol plays a major role in our shameful rates of suicide and family violence. By ignoring the evidence, we dishonour the thousands of lives that have been lost to date and the devastating impact that alcohol continues to have.”

“A fair approach to tax would mean that those that drink the most, pay the most in tax. Increasing the price of alcohol can result in significant cost savings to Police, Justice, ACC and Health - this is good for all of us.”

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