2 May 2018

Health advocates push for minimum alcohol price

5:06 pm on 2 May 2018

The introduction of a minimum alcohol price is long overdue in this country, the Drug Foundation says.

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Photo: By Angie Garrett from Ridgely, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The comments come after an announcement that Scotland had brought in a minimum price of 50p (NZ 97 cents) per unit of alcohol as of 1 May. The target of the change was low-cost drinks with high alcohol content, such as cider and home brand spirits.

Health Minister David Clark said minimum alcohol pricing had not yet been considered by the New Zealand government.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said the liquor industry was scared of a minimum alcohol price and that was a sign it was a good idea.

"The science on pricing is actually really clear: it hits three of the populations you want to target," he said.

"It does influence young people's drinking, it prevents moderate drinkers from becoming heavy drinkers, and it does impact on the drinking behaviour of people with drinking problem.

"Certainly people with an alcohol dependency do need treatment too, but price does influence their behaviour as well."

However, New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council executive director Nick Leggett said such a move would impact the wrong people.

"It's really been quite well established that a minimum alcohol price tends to impact the consumption and buying habits of those who drink the least," he said.

"The people who drink the most - and have a problem with alcohol - are not price-sensitive."

Mr Leggett said Scotland had gone for the blunt tool of a minimum unit price because under EU laws it could not introduce an excise tax like New Zealand has.

University of Otago professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine Doug Sellman said the New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council was opposed to a minimum alcohol price because it would reduce alcohol use over time, which was bad for business.

There was plenty of scientific literature which underlined the association between increasing alcohol prices and reduction in use, he said.