Today ALAC have released the results of a study that profiles the New Zealand drinking culture - “The Way We Drink: A Profile of Drinking in New Zealand.

While the report doesn’t tell us anything particularly new in terms of who’s drinking it does provide a status report and some valuable insight into the issues. It clearly shows that risky drinking is wide spread and not just a youth issue. “We’ve always been uncomfortable about pointing the finger at young people. While problem drinking among young people is of huge concern we can’t ignore the influence of older people on their drinking.” This report should be used to prompt action says Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams.

The report is telling us once again that we have a deeply ingrained binge drinking culture. Rather than alcohol being used as one part of social occasions it is being used as a means to a different end - drunkenness. Ms Williams stresses that this does not mean that all New Zealanders are drunks but rather that there are concerning patterns of drinking within the population. However, this report does indicate that over 1.4 million adult New Zealanders could be described as “binge-drinkers”. This says Williams, challenges the view that only small proportion of drinkers are abusers.

The report also tells us that we are going to have to up our efforts to reduce harm in order to counter the prevailing culture and the aggressive advertising and sponsorship environment. Peoples drinking habits will reflect what’s going on around them and are therefore influenced by many things.

Ms Williams is keen to see solution-focussed action resulting from the report. She suggests that the information provided by the report regarding drinkers’ incomes clearly indicates that pricing issues needed to be looked at. Taxation increases and establishing minimum prices were two options.

Other strategies will also be needed to actually change our attitudes towards excessive drinking. Some of these need to affect the whole population and others need to target the problem drinkers within the population. Strategies include banning or at least increasing restrictions of the marketing of alcohol and the strengthening of the Sale of Liquor Act. Warning messages on alcohol containers, in advertisements and at point of sale need to be part of the mix as well as reducing the blood alcohol level for driving. These options are all described in Alcohol Healthwatch’s Action on Liquor Legislation campaign.

For further information contact please Rebecca Williams, Director, (09) 520 7035 or
021 862 250.