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NZ Should Follow Scots Alcohol Pricing Lead

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZ Should Follow Scots Alcohol Pricing Lead

Scotland has got serious about reducing alcohol harm: but when will NZ be?

A minimum price for alcoholic drinks is set to become law in Scotland within a year, following the re-election of the Scottish Nationalist Party, who had vowed to make this a key priority.

The British Medical Association and other medical leaders in the UK welcomed the move. They identify cheap strong alcohol as driving a heavy drinking culture that results in 5,500 alcohol-related visits to the doctor per day in Scotland and is causing the NHS to "buckle". It is estimated that this change will cut hospital admissions by 1,200 and save about 50 lives each year.

Professor Jennie Connor, medical spokesperson for Alcohol Action NZ, points out that "international research evidence supports raising of the price of alcohol as one of the most effective ways of reducing harm from drinking and while this is usually achieved by increasing excise tax, applying a minimum price to each unit (or standard drink) is likely to have some significant additional benefits."

"As well as increasing the average price of alcohol, which will reduce consumption", she says "it eliminates the ultra-cheap alcohol that makes very heavy drinking practices affordable even to young people"

"The situation is just as desperate here in New Zealand" says Professor Doug Sellman, Director of the National Addiction Centre. "Alcohol is so cheap to buy, particularly from supermarkets. There is an urgent need for price rises here as well, to reduce consumption amongst heavy drinkers, but our current government seem staunchly opposed to reforms that will actually work to curb the heavy drinking culture".

Alcohol Action NZ has recommended that a minimum price for a standard drink in New Zealand should be at least $2.

Not surprisingly, the intention to pass this new law in Scotland has been criticized by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association who have said: "Minimum pricing would punish the vast majority of responsible drinkers with higher prices, hitting those on low incomes hardest, yet there is no evidence it would address the root causes of alcohol misuse."

Professor Connor disagrees entirely. "This is classic alcohol industry rhetoric" she says. "Invoking the punishment of responsible drinkers and poor people is a deliberate strategy used by the alcohol industries whatever reform is proposed. Since responsible drinkers are those that don't drink very much, price control makes very little difference to them. What these interventions do is protect low-risk drinkers from the harms they currently suffer due to other peoples' heavy drinking, including drink-driving, violence and the waste of their health resources".

"Whatever one considers the root cause of heavy drinking, there is plenty of evidence that increasing the price of alcohol controls it", she added.

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