Winter/Spring 2002 Issue 34

News & Views

The Newsletter of Alcohol Healthwatch

To ID or Not to ID?

That was the question asked of the audience and a guest panel at the launch of the Auckland Pseudo Patron Project at the Waipuna Conference Centre on 4 July.

Guest speaker at the launch was the Honourable Phil Goff, Minister of Justice. The launch also featured a performance by Te Kaha o te Rangatahi Whanau o Tamaki Makaurau, a service provider who promote health messages to students and community groups. The performance provided a dynamic youth focus.

The research component of the project, conducted by the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit (APHRU) and funded by the Ministry of Health, has provided the basis for an intensive media campaign and the promotion of community action. This activity is being co-ordinated by Regional Alcohol Project (RAP), a group of alcohol health promoters from agencies funded by the Ministry of Health, including Auckland District Health Board, Safe Waitakere Alcohol Project, Hapai Te Hauora Tapui Ltd and Alcohol Healthwatch.

The research saw a random sample of nearly 250 off-licence premises visited by 18 year old "pseudo-patrons", who attempted to purchase alcohol without having ID available. The aim was to monitor age verification practices within the Auckland Region. A mix of city and rural premises were visited.

Results varied from district to district within the region and for the type of premise – supermarket, bottle store or grocery outlet. Overall, successful purchases were made without ID in 61% of attempts. Rates varied from 39% (North Shore) to 91% (Papakura). Supermarkets were shown to have stronger age verification practices, with 53% of attempted purchases being successful. This compared with grocery style outlets, which fared the worst with 80%. A strong disregard for the law was illustrated by anecdotal evidence collected during the study. For example, some sales were declined when receipts were requested and some staff checked for the presence of enforcement before making a sale.

Panel members and attendees at the launch were asked how these results could be turned around. Suggestions included putting more resources to enforcement, undertaking controlled purchase operations and making age verification (ID) a legal requirement. It was clear that a stronger ID culture needs to be developed throughout the region.

Another issue raised during the discussion was the powerlessness of residents in addressing the proliferation of licensed premises in their community.

The region is by no means daunted by the results of the study and a range of strategic responses have already been planned and implemented. The RAP group achieved significant coverage of the research results and the launch in the local media, helping to raise awareness of the issues. Signage promoting the message "ID under 25" is being developed as a resource. The Waitakere and Portage Licensing Trusts have introduced mandatory ID under 25 at all of their outlets. Controlled purchase operations are also being undertaken. (See SHORT CUTS for the results of one of these)

"Mountain of Alcohol" - The alcohol successfully purchased
without ID during the Pseudo-Patron study
Mountain of Alcohol

FAS Prevention Message Hits the Streets

Conch shells and Pacific drums reverberated around a busy south Auckland shopping centre with a strong and clear message. Listen, learn and collectively turn the tide on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome for future generations. International FAS Awareness Day links the world with a chain of events that starts in New Zealand and finishes in Alaska. The day begins each year at precisely 9.09 am on the 9th day of the 9th month with a poignant moment of silence in recognition of the thousands of babies needlessly disabled by drinking alcohol during pregnancy.The number 9 symbolises the 9 months of pregnancy.

This year Auckland was treated to a very special and vibrant Pacific breakfast, hosted by the Lavea’i Trust based at Pacificare in Papatoetoe. Preventing FAS is a major goal of the Lavea’i Trust. The morning was a wonderful mixture of culture, food, information, inspiration, spirituality and fun. It ended in a celebration of life with drummers and dancers outside in the spring sunshine. Other FAS day events were held throughout New Zealand and the Fetal Alcohol New Zealand Trust ensured the issues were discussed on national television.

Next year will be the thirtieth anniversary of the first published evidence on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome by American specialists Drs Jones and Smith. The year 2003 will provide an opportunity for the western world to critically reflect on the implications of alcohol during pregnancy that have come to light in the last three decades and to call for greater action in the decades to come.

Creamy Vino?


How can an alcoholic cream liqueur, made with "finest New Zealand cream", end up being sold as ‘wine’? That is a question worthy of Alcohol Healthwatch embarking on a mission to hunt down the answer as to how these ‘split personality products’ progressed their way through the various regulatory and legislative processes to leap right onto supermarket shelves. The Sale of Liquor Act (1989) made provision for wine that complies with regulation 219 of the Food Regulations 1984 (S.R. 1984/262) to be sold in food markets.

So how does a dairy based ‘liqueur’ with 14% alcohol content get on to supermarket shelves? The answer to that question is currently being untangled by Government officials. Alcohol Healthwatch is concerned with the precedent these spirit/liqueur look-alikes in supermarkets may set. Meantime, while we await a pronouncement, you may feel inclined to ask your local retailer how these ambiguous products got there, next time you’re passing one in a supermarket aisle.


It’s time for change. We need a change in our drinking culture. We need a change in the legislation concerning alcohol.

How can we work to improve our drinking culture and reduce alcohol-related harm when our legislative environment is so unsupportive?

I believe that it is the role of the government to take a lead and that the government must begin now to create the legislative change that will support health agencies, enforcement agencies, families and communities to achieve a culture change.

It is not only the legislation that applies to the sale and supply of alcohol (the Sale of Liquor Act 1989) but also other legislation that, through its weakness and/or lack of effective enforcement, has let alcohol-related harm in New Zealand reach such critical and unmanageable proportions.

Legislation concerning alcohol taxation, advertising and promotion, road safety, labelling (both food and health-warning) and community input into alcohol and licensing issues must also be strengthened.

The Sale of Liquor Act (1989) itself must be strengthened by both returning the legal minimum purchase age to 20 years and by requiring mandatory age verification of young alcohol buyers.

Legislative change must be accompanied by the necessary monitoring and enforcement resources.

I believe communities are ready to see some change. I have also witnessed the frustration of many communities and individuals endeavouring to bring about change.

Government cannot expect agencies and communities to achieve a reduction in alcohol-related harm without first showing its own commitment to doing so.

Rebecca Williams

Director - Alcohol Healthwatch

CBT Saves Lives

The social cost of road crashes has fallen $900 million over the last four years and the Coalition To Reduce Drinking and Driving (CReDD) has given Compulsory Breath Testing (CBT) its share of the credit.

At the launch of "Every Breath You Take," a review of CBT in New Zealand on 21 June 2002, CReDD recommended that CBT continue to be used as a leading strategy for reduction in the road toll. CReDD also advocated for increased publicity of CBT, swifter penalties and the development of community-specific strategies.

Comedian Michelle A’Court opened the launch and Councillor Catherine Harland from the Regional Land Transport Committee welcomed attendees. Roger Eccles of Alcohol Healthwatch and CReDD spokesperson presented the key recommendations from the review. Road Safety statistics were provided by Bill Frith of the Land Transport Safety Authority and Dr Peter Jones from Auckland Hospital’s Emergency Department spoke about the impact of lowering the drinking age. Operational implications and the future of CBTs were discussed by Inspector John Kelly from the Office of the Commissioner of Police.

Discussion following the presentations revealed widespread frustration that, despite a strong call to reduce the legal blood alcohol limit for driving, this has not yet come about. CReDD continues to campaign for legislative change in this area. Among its recommendations the Review calls for the adult legal blood alcohol level to be reduced to 0.05% and a zero blood alcohol level applied to both people not holding a full licence and those under 20 years of age.


A Lesson to be Learnt

It is illegal to sell alcohol to those under 18 years of age. This is the lesson that nine out of 11 off-licences in Howick, Manukau City will learn the hard way following a recent "sting" operation that has resulted in staff facing prosecution.

Of the 11 premises visited, nine sold alcohol to the 16 year old girl. "No questions asked, no proof of age, nothing," Constable Tom Molloy expresses his shock and disappointment at the results.

Enhanced Alcohol Intelligence Project Underway

A partnership between ACC, New Zealand Police and Alcohol Healthwatch has sealed the way for work to begin on improving intelligence on alcohol related harm and offending. The project will be based on the national development of the Last Drink Survey. "The project is aimed at developing a robust intelligence system which will enhance action at all levels," says Project Co-ordinator

Eldene Bradley of Alcohol Healthwatch. "We will be consulting on ways to improve current information gathering and dissemination systems and exploring ways to further inform collaborative action to reduce alcohol-related harm."

Summer’s Over for Alcohol Advertisement Targeting Youth

An alcohol billboard campaign using cartoon-style illustrations aimed at young people has been ruled out of bounds by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In support of an appeal lodged by Alcohol Healthwatch, the ASA Appeals Board overturned a previous ASA decision that allowed the advertisements. The Appeal Board ruled that the DB Export "Summer’s Here" billboards campaign was in breach of Principle 4 of the voluntary Advertising Codes of Practice. The Appeal Board found that the advertisements did have "strong or evident appeal to minors in particular" and as such there was sufficient evidence to effect a breach of the codes.

Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams believes that while this decision is a positive step for protecting children and young people from alcohol targeting, the self-regulating process is a nonsense given the time it takes to get an advertisement out of circulation. By the time a ruling is made on a complaint from the public the advertisement has run its course and done its job. There is some consolation in that future advertising may have a higher benchmark. However, this is cold comfort while huge glossy billboards or television advertisements continue with their questionable drinking messages.

Alcohol Healthwatch believes the only way to prevent alcohol advertising appealing to young people is to stop it altogether. Advertising that glamorises alcohol is known to influence young drinkers. The earlier drinking starts, the greater the risk of problems later on. Given the increasing trend of harmful youth drinking and its sometimes tragic results, the subject of alcohol advertising and sponsorship must be back on the political agenda sooner rather than later.

New on the Web

• Submission to Manukau City Council on "Reducing Alcohol-Related Problems in Manukau"

• "Every Breath You Take" - A Review of Compulsory Breath Testing in New Zealand
Published by CReDD - Coalition to Reduce Drinking and Driving

• Fact Sheet - Alcohol’s Effects on the Human Body

Alcohol Healthwatch News

Alcohol Healthwatch said farewell to Roger Eccles on 5 July. Roger has been a Health Promotion Advisor and Spokesperson with us since 1995 and played an integral part in our activities over this time. Roger was an active advocate for alcohol issues and shared his knowledge to assist a wide range of community groups. He has also been a supportive member of CReDD (Coalition to Reduce Drinking and Driving and GALA (Group Against Liquor Advertising). Roger has decided to complete his study and pursue other interests. We wish him well.

We have three new faces on the team. We have welcomed Debbie Broughton, Last Drink Survey Co-ordinator (LDS) for Waitakere, North Shore and Rodney, Melissa McArthur, LDS Co-ordinator for Auckland City and Anna Maxwell, who has joined the Health Promotion team.

Jolene Thomas (former LDS Co-ordinator Auckland City) has also decided to complete her studies but remains with us on a part-time basis at present. She will now focus on regional co-ordination and development.


Partnerships Conferences:

South Island - Park Royal Hotel, Queenstown 9 - 11 October 2002

North Island - Centra Hotel, Rotorua 14 - 16 October 2002

VAADA (Victoria Alcohol & Drug Association) Annual Conference:

Everyday Drugs, Everyday Problems - tackling alcohol and other legal drugs

Rydes Carlton, Melbourne 2 & 3 December 2002

4th International Conference on Drugs and Young People

Wellington Convention Centre 26 - 28 May 2003

Contacting Us:

Alcohol Healthwatch
P O Box 99 407
Newmarket, Auckland
Ph: (09) 520 7036
Fax: (09) 520 7175


This newsletter is funded by
The Ministry of Health