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Meaningful Alcohol Reform Required, Psychiatry Group Says

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Fuseworks Media
Meaningful Alcohol Reform Required, Psychiatry Group Says

The Government must act quickly on alcohol law reform to ensure New Zealanders are free of wide-spread alcohol abuse, a psychiatry group says.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) said there was nothing in the Government's recent proposals which would make substantial difference to binge drinking.

"The current alcohol laws are exacerbating New Zealand's drinking problems. At least 25 percent of New Zealanders who drink are heavy drinkers, half of serious violent crimes are related to alcohol, and alcohol use can seriously impact on mental health," RANZCP's New Zealand national committee chairman Dr Lyndy Matthews said.

The Government's Alcohol Reform Bill, which covers a raft of law changes affecting the sale and supply of liquor, passed its first reading earlier this month.

The bill gives local authorities strong powers to decide their own licensing regimes, proposes splitting the purchase age to 18 for bars and 20 for supermarkets and liquor stores, puts restrictions on the supply of liquor to minors and extends the description of public places where drinking can be banned.

But Dr Matthews said it was not enough to stop the amount of heavy drinking in New Zealand.

"Excessive drinking affects brain function and can both induce and exacerbate mental health problems.

"There is clear evidence of long term harms associated with regular heavy alcohol use, with high rates of chronic illness associated with binge drinking in adolescence and young adulthood," she said.

RANZCP calls on the Government to consider the following changes:

* Commitment to raise alcohol prices,

* Reduce access to alcohol, including changing supermarkets to be alcohol-free,

* Dismantle broadcast advertising and sponsorship of sport and events over the next five years,

* Reduce the blood alcohol level permissible for drivers from 80mg to 50mg.

RANZCP said it had sent a letter to Prime Minister John Key asking the Government to act on the issue.

NZPA 

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