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DHBs Call For Stronger Action On Alcohol Will Improve Health And Equity

Alcohol Healthwatch strongly supports the collective call made by all 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) for New Zealand’s liquor laws to be reviewed. This is the first time the collective heads of the DHBs have joined forces on a singular position statement calling for law change.

"The harm from alcohol remains unacceptably high and drives health inequities. For DHBs to improve the health of their people and communities, and importantly, reduce health inequities, they need the Government to support them by enacting best practice alcohol policies. It’s unfair to ask DHBs and their communities to continue to bear the health and economic costs of alcohol harm when we clearly know the measures that will save lives, prevent harm and reduce inequities" says Executive Director, Dr Nicki Jackson.

The collective DHB Position Statement on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 recommends the Government take effective actions on the three strongest drivers of alcohol use and harm - the price, availability and advertising of alcohol. These calls are underpinned by a wealth of high-quality, consistent evidence and echo previous recommendations made by the Law Commission in 2010, Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship in 2014, and Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry in 2018.

Since the 2012 liquor laws, the affordability of alcohol has increased substantially, alcohol advertising remains pervasive, and councils and communities have been unsuccessful in their efforts to restrict local alcohol availability. This maintains an environment that promotes heavy drinking, drowning out calls made by communities for urgent change.

"New Zealanders living in our most deprived neighbourhoods are shown to have greater exposure to cheap alcohol, high alcohol outlet density, and alcohol advertising. This unequal exposure to alcohol risk environments contributes to disproportionately higher levels of alcohol harm and this is unjust. Effective alcohol policies that address the price, availability and advertising of alcohol are pro-equity."

"Enacting the DHB’s recommendations can lift the physical and mental health of every New Zealander, as well as prevent and reduce health inequities between Māori and non-Maori. Alcohol is the most harmful of all drugs, due to its wide-ranging harms to the drinker and to others. Its use is associated with more than 200 health conditions (including cancer). We all stand to gain so much from reducing alcohol harm - safer roads, safer communities, happier families, and healthier children are just some of the endless benefits", says Dr Jackson.

"By strengthening our liquor laws, we can create healthier and fairer environments. This will support millions of New Zealanders to reap the many benefits from our country drinking less. Our DHBs are our leaders in health and have called for urgent change - they deserve to be heard. We need to act now to reduce the burden of alcohol on our health services and enable current and future generations to thrive", ends Dr Jackson.

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