Spring 2001 Issue 32 www.ahw.co.nz

News & Views

The Newsletter of Alcohol Healthwatch
Successful Forum On SOL Act Impacts
Photo: left to right, Sally Jackman NZ Drug Foundation, Sally Casswell APHRU and Sally Liggins Ministry of Health
Attending the Alcohol Healthwatch Forum, left to right, Sally Jackman NZ Drug Foundation, Sally Casswell APHRU and Sally Liggins Ministry of Health.

Alcohol Healthwatch recently held a successful forum to discuss the impacts of the changes to the Sale of Liquor Act in 1999. The forum was held in response to the current review of the changes to drinking age being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice. The aim of the forum was to assist in providing good information to the (Ministry of Justice Review) and to provide suggestions to improve the workings of the existing legislation.

Those giving presentations at the forum included Dr Peter Jones, Emergency Physician from Auckland Hospital, Professor Sally Casswell of the Alcohol and Public Research Unit, Paul Marriott-Lloyd of the Office of the Commisioner of Police and Sergeant Mike Lopdell, of the Liquor Licensing Section of the Auckland Police.

Drinking Age Drop Leads to Busy ED

Emergency Physician Doctor Peter Jones reported at the Alcohol Healthwatch Forum that his research showed a significant increase in the numbers of 18 and 19 year-olds that are presenting to Auckland Hospital's Emergency Department with alcohol-related conditions since the lowering of the drinking age.

These findings were part of a retrospective observational study by Auckland emergency medicine specialists, Doctors Peter Jones and Rob Everitt. They identified a 52% increase in 18-19 year olds, and a 34 % increase in the under 18 year old age group presenting at Auckland Hospital Emergency Department with alcohol-related conditions. The study looked at the number of intoxicated people coming into the emergency department in the 12 months before the drinking age was lowered to 18 years in 1999 and for the 12 months after. According to Dr Jones the number of intoxicated youths in the emergency department are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as most would 'crawl home and sleep it off" before reporting to the emergency department.

Meanwhile another study in the emergency department in Auckland found that 35% of injury was alcohol-related. The study was undertaken by the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit in conjunction with the Emergency Department. Investigator Gayl Humphrey says the figure may be a conservative estimate.

Casino Bar In Glenn Innes

The decision to allow a casino bar to go ahead in the Glen Innes Town Centre highlights the difficulty communities have in controlling liquor licensing and gambling in their neighbourhoods. The proposal for a casino and bar at the town centre received planning permission from Auckland City, even though members of the Glen Innes community rallied together with Alcohol Healthwatch to try and stop the proposal. Members of the community, including Ngati Whatua Health, church groups and over three hundred petitioners believed that the casino bar would have a detrimental impact on the town centre and on the health and well-being of the community.

Glen Innes is a lower socio-economic Auckland suburb with a high proportion of Maori and Pacific Island residents. The suburb has been identified as a special needs area by the Auckland District Health Board because of the high number of acute admissions from the area. Ironically, the proposed tavern is located between the Work and Income Office and Ngati Whatua Health Centre, and fronts onto the children's playground in the town centre. The application was for the bar to operate between the hours of 7 am and 3 am each day and accommodate up to 120 patrons with up to 18 pokie machines.

Alcohol Healthwatch argued at the council hearing that the proposal for the tavern failed to meet the objectives of the district plan for Glen Innes, that there was a significant car parking short fall and that the casino bar would result in the loss of amenity, safety and health for the Glen Innes Town Centre and the local residents.

Unfortunately, little attention was paid to broader health issues in the planning decision. The Planning Commissioners decided that the concerns of the community relating to liquor licensing, gambling, crime and health could not be taken into account when making the decision. While health is included in the Resource Management Act (RMA), the issue of gambling was seen to be outside the scope of the RMA and the Auckland District Plan. In making its decision the Council placed a number of conditions on the consent including that no live music could be played and the hours of operation be restricted to 1am.

Drinking Age And Violence

A recent study by the Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts has found that the earlier people start drinking the more likely they are to be associated with alcohol-related violence. The objective of the study was to explore whether people who start drinking at an early age are more likely to have been in physical fights after drinking.

The study was based on a US Census Bureau survey of 42, 862 randomly selected adults aged 18 or older with a mean age of 44 years. The survey included questions regarding the age that respondents started drinking and whether respondents were ever, or in the past year, in a physical fight after drinking alcohol. Relative to respondents who did not begin drinking until age 21 or older, those who started drinking before age 17 were at least three times more likely to be involved in a fight within the last year.

This relationship was found even after controlling for personal histories of alcohol dependence, years of drinking, frequency of heavy drinking, smoking, drug use and other personal characteristics associated with the age respondents started drinking. http://www.pediatrics.org

Dying
For A Drink

Recent research suggests suicide prevention requires a comprehensive response to the link between alcohol use disorders and suicide. A United States study comparing youth suicide and the legal minimum drinking age in various states found that the suicide rate of 18 - 29 year old youths living in states with a minimum drinking age of 18 was 8% higher than the rate among 18 - 21 year olds where the legal drinking age was 21 years. (Brickmayer J, Hemenway D. Minimum age drinking laws and youth suicide, 1970 - 1990. Am J Public Health, 1999).

These results echo the impact of the major anti-alcohol campaign introduced by President Gorbachov into the Soviet Union during the 1980's, in which the prices for alcohol were raised substantially, alcohol retail outlets were reduced and there was less tolerance of public drunkenness. The result was significant reductions in alcohol consumption and suicide rates of 19% for women and 32% for men. (Wasserman D et al. Female Suicides and alcohol consumption during peretrokia in the former USSR, Acta Psychiatr Scand 1998.)

The Heart of the Matter
by Christine Rogan

For years we have been awash with news that moderate alcohol consumption is good for your heart. That 80's phenomenon the 'French Paradox', continues to sell newspapers and increase wine sales. You know the story, the French drink like fish and eat fatty food but have less heart disease than everyone else. Or do they? French scientists, who first coined the phrase that captured headlines, have been trying to tell the world that the paradox has turned out to be a myth. It was a basic oversimplification of limited data and a consequence of a different way of coding coronary mortality. The real paradox is that coronary heart disease (CHD) is the number one killer in France and alcohol has the highest health cost - ahead of tobacco. Frenchmen tend to die of competing alcohol-related causes such as liver disease, cancer and accidents before heart disease gets them.

The Southern European diet appears to have some moderating factors but France's CHD rate is similar to that of its neighbours. One of the original cardiologist-researcher states that, "The French paradox cannot be explained only by alcohol... and there is no consensus to say that alcohol consumption in moderation is protective." (Marin Institute 2000).

Consensus? How can this be? Isn't the so-called protective factor of alcohol routinely factored into health policy? It appears, that the observation that abstainers are more likely to die of CHD than light to moderate drinkers (based on the oft-quoted J or U-shaped curve) may not be the unequivocal proof once thought. Researcher Kaye Fillmore, puts such findings down to a dominance of poor measurements and points to a number of large prospective studies that do not find this association. She states, "Despite the seemingly consistent results from numerous studies replicating the J-shaped curve and its biological plausibility, most of the prospective studies do not meet the rigorous criteria required to adequately evaluate the question and among the few who come close, linear - rather than J-shaped - associations are most often found." (Addiction 2000).

So has the champagne lost its fizz? Is the party over? Not necessarily, but before we start putting alcohol in the 'pick the tick' heart health campaign, policy analysts and health professionals alike need to rethink their statements on the subject. While drinking less than the maximum recommended daily amount is most likely harmless (provided you are not pregnant, flying a plane or at risk of a health problem) it is unlikely to stave off a much-dreaded heart attack in middle age. The rest as they say may be 'wishful drinking'.

Alcohol Limits Part of 2010 Road Strategy?

Media reports suggest that the Government is under pressure to reduce the legal drink drive limit to 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood as part of the 2010 Road Safety Strategy. Road safety groups including the Police, the Ministry of Transport and ACC, say that cutting the alcohol limit per 100ml of blood from 80 mg to 50 mg will save 32 lives and $140 million dollars a year.

The proposed change has been opposed by the alcohol industry. The proposal is one of many made by Police, Transit NZ, the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA), ACC and the Ministry of Transport in the discussion paper Road Safety Strategy 2010. The aim of the strategy is to save 200 lives a year by 2010.

Research from Monash University in Melbourne suggests that a 50 mg limit would save 32 lives and 640 injures each year. These figures are based on results from Australia where all the states have adopted the 50 mg limit. The LTSA estimates that at the present 80 mg limit a driver is three times more likely to crash than if he or she were sober. As well as all Australian states now having the 50 mg limit, the European Union is currently encouraging its 15 member states to adopt the 50 mg limit.

Alcohol Healthwatch has consistently advocated for the adoption of a lower legal blood alcohol to save lives on the roads in New Zealand!

Young Offenders Stats Climb

The Police are picking up more young offenders. Police apprehended 46,258 under 17 year olds in the year to June. That is an increase of 3,763 apprehensions over the figure two years ago. This surge in young offenders would appear to contradict one of Labour's seven credit card promises to crack down on burglary and youth crime. There has also been a corresponding increase in the number of under 17's arrested for violent crime in the last two years, with 4,262 violent offences in the period 1997-98 and 4,829 in the period 2000-2001. Given the close links between crimes of violence, youth offending and alcohol, these figures underline the problems associated with the increased availability of alcohol for young people.

House Party 'Place of Resort'

The Kaikohe District Court recently prosecuted Kerikeri resident Mike Masefield with providing a 'place of resort' for the unlicensed consumption of alcohol. Mr Masefield pleaded guilty to the offence and was given diversion by the court. It was the Police's view that the function held, for a 16th birthday party, wasn't a private party as there was an open invitation and people were able to walk off the street to attend. Those attending were also charged $5.00 at the door. It is estimated that there was between 200 to 250 young people at the party and Police believe the door takings were over $1,200. The police became aware of the party following a stabbing at the house.

According to Constable Bernice Lee the case has had, "huge implications for the town of Kerikeri". One positive result has been that many parents are now approaching the Police about how to run a party for young people. "There has also been a ripple effect throughout New Zealand with many Police contacting the Kerikeri Police about the decision", says Constable Lee.

'Controlled Purchase' Success

The Liquor Licensing Authority (LLA) recently cancelled the off-licence of an Onehunga bottlestore following a case brought against it for selling alcohol to minors. The case was taken by the Auckland Police Liquor Licensing Section after the Police had been tipped off by concerned parents about sales to minors.

In making their case the Police gather part of their evidence by a "controlled purchase" operation, utilised the services of 17 year old female to vet the premises for underage sales. The 17 year old was asked to take her driver's licence showing her exact age. She was given a cashflow card with a pin number. She was advised that the card would not work, and no sale would take place. She was told to be totally honest with all her answers.

The young woman endeavoured to purchase a 1125 ml bottle of vodka. She was asked for identification and showed the drivers licence with her correct age on it. However, the manager continued to go ahead with the sale. The Eftpos transaction was then declined. The young woman then left the store without the vodka. The attempted sale was observed by a Constable who was in the shop and who then approached the owner and questioned him about the sale.

The lawyer appearing on behalf of the licensed premise argued that it was unfair for the Police to apply for a cancellation of licence as some of the evidence "was gained by police entrapment".
It was however pointed out by the Police, that the use of a young volunteers to monitor the Smoke Free Environments Act was approved by Judge Rushton in Auckland Healthcare Services Ltd v Hikerry Foods Ltd (8.2.1999). The LLA went on to comment, "we have no hesitation in accepting the evidence. She was a volunteer. She had her mothers informed consent. She was not asked to make up any story, or to be anyone but herself. She carried out the actions of any normal customer during normal trading hours and well after schools had closed."

The LLA concluded that it was a clear case in which the company had allowed a system to develop where minors have not been asked for identification and that the manager and the company had ignored the responsibility of the law.

COMING EVENTS

ALAC, Pacific Spirit Conference, 2001
15-16 November, Waipuna Conference Centre, Auckland

ALAC, Working Together Conference 2002, 'Community Action'
18-20 February, 2002, Te Papa, Wellington

News & Views

Alcohol Healthwatch
PO Box 99407, Newmarket, Auckland
Ph: (09) 520 7038 Fax: (09) 520 7175
Email: eccles@ahw.co.nz
www.ahw.co.nz

This newsletter is funded by the Ministry of Health