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Delay of alcohol law reform false economy

Wednesday 15 March 2023, 5:08AM

By Alcohol Healthwatch

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Among its ditched policies the Government has delayed any further alcohol law reform for yet another year.

It had signalled that alcohol marketing, including alcohol sponsorship of sport, and some aspects of pricing might be on the policy reform agenda.

Adopting an evidence-based approach to alcohol policy will significantly reduce the burden of alcohol-related harm - the economic cost to the country being estimated as $7.85 billion a year. This is particularly relevant right now given our struggling health system and the other crises we are currently facing.

"The existing alcohol levy is currently needing a new focus - this could easily be utilised to support sporting groups to shift from any alcohol sponsorship," says Rebecca Williams, Acting Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch.

She also notes that an audit undertaken last year found that the alcohol industry provides very limited support to grassroots sports. Rather their focus is on the high profile sponsorships with significant exposure to massive audiences, and linking alcohol to our sporting heroes.

Alcohol companies get a significant return on investment from their marketing, advertising and sponsorship. Young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising is shown to result in them drinking more, and starting to drink earlier.

Yet another delay in implementing evidence-based alcohol policies highlights the need to confront the ‘elephant in the room’. Williams says that review after review has come up with the same findings and recommendations. We have to restrict alcohol marketing and address the price of alcohol. Why aren’t we implementing these evidence-based strategies? Successive Governments have simply not had the courage to face resistance by the alcohol industry lobby.

Community polling consistently shows clear support for Government action to address alcohol-related harm. For example, 62% of New Zealanders support banning alcohol-related sponsorship of events that people under the age of 18 may attend. It is untenable to continue to allow vested interest groups to determine the well-being of our nation.