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Alcohol Cheaper Than Bottled Water

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Alcohol Cheaper Than Bottled Water

The price of alcohol has dropped so low over the last decade that it now costs less than bottled water in some cases, a new University of Otago study shows.

Public Health Associate Professor Nick Wilson and fellow researcher Fiona Gunasekara found that when on sale cask wine could be purchased for as low as 62 cents per standard drink which was less than a glass of bottled water which on average cost 67c a glass.

Bottled wine cost 65c per drink, beer 64c, spirits 78c, compared to milk which cost 43c a glass.

When compared to rises in average wages this meant there had been a steady drop in the relative cost of alcohol compared to a decade ago, Mr Wilson said.

The researchers said the low cost of alcohol was contributing to New Zealand's binge drinking culture and the Government was "shooting itself in the foot" when it decided not to raise excise tax on alcohol, as recommended in the recent Law Commission report.

"This government was very smart when it raised tobacco tax, but not so smart in ignoring the Law Commission's recent recommendation for higher alcohol taxes," Mr Wilson said.

"International scientific evidence strongly indicates that cheap alcohol is a factor in promoting binge drinking by young people, and in increasing the overall size of the health and social harm from alcohol misuse," he said.

Heavily advertised discounting by supermarkets and liquor stores exacerbated the problem and the Government should also consider a ban on below cost discounting and marketing around price, he said.

"Our analysis suggests alcohol is now probably the cheapest recreational drug in New Zealand and has become increasingly affordable, at the same time as concern about binge drinking culture has grown," Mr Wilson said.

Justice Minister Simon Power told the Dominion Post that while the study's results were concerning, the Government believed its alcohol reform package "strikes the right balance".

The Government had ruled out an increase in excise taxes but was investigating a minimum pricing regime, Mr Power said.

The study was published in today's New Zealand Medical Journal.


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