The alcohol crisis

February 26th, 2013 at 7:07 am by David Farrar

blogs on the alcohol crisis:

The volume of alcoholic beverage available for consumption in New Zealand fell 3.3 percent in 2012, Statistics New Zealand said today. The decrease was due to a fall in the volume of beer, down 20 million litres. This fall was partly offset by a 4.3 million litre rise in the volume of wine.
“Although the volume of alcoholic beverages available was down more than 3.0 percent, the amount of pure fell only 0.6 percent,” industry and labour statistics manager Louise Holmes-Oliver said. “This was due to change in the types of beverages available.”
An increase in the volume of higher-alcohol beverages such as wine, spirits, and spirit-based drinks accounts for the smaller fall in pure alcohol available. The volume of high-alcohol beer (over 5.0 percent) also increased. In contrast, all other beer categories available for consumption have decreased.
The volume of pure alcohol available for consumption per person aged 15 years and over fell 1.7 percent, to 9.3 litres in 2012.
But all the public health lobbyists and the Opposition have been claiming we have an alcohol crisis in New Zealand, and the price of alcohol must go up to stop ever-increasing consumption levels.
Since the alcohol laws were liberalised in 1989, the average amount of alcohol available for consumption has dropped by around a litre per capita.
I note the headline in the Dom Post is:
RTD alcohol availability on the rise
This is instead of a headline about alcohol availability drops.
Although the volume of alcohol available for consumption fell 3.3 per cent last year, ready-to-drink (RTD) spirit-based drinks are still on the rise.
By how much?
Latest Statistics New Zealand figures show pre-mixed RTDs were up 78,000 litres, rising 0.1 per cent to 62 million litres.
By 0.1%!! Shock, horror. As the population grew by more than 0.1% it is in fact a per capita decrease.
The overall downturn in alcohol available for consumption was due to a fall in the volume of beer, which dropped 20 million litres, a decline partly offset by a 4.3 million litre rise in the volume of wine.
Yet no headlines about wine consumption. The media often have double standards. Wine consumption is seen as good, RTD consumption as bad. Gambling on Lotto is good and celebrated and gambling on pokies is evil and destructive.
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33 Responses to “The alcohol crisis”

  1. Mobile Michael (410 comments) says:

    Since when has a crusading politician ever let facts get in the way of their story? (All of them, regarless of the colour of their ribbon)

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  2. wreck1080 (3,725 comments) says:

    Amongst the young, i reckon there is a crisis.

    Perhaps you should be asking staff at the local ED whether youth drinking to excess has worsened.

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  3. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    ‘Crisis’ is “A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point” – alcohol problems have around for yonks – in fact for millenia.

    There are serious problems with overconsumption of alcohol and the demographic might be changing but it is hardly an unexpected crisis.

    Alcohol figures highly in violence, crime, family dysfunction and poor productivity, but none of that is new. Big problems (despite a slight overall decrease in volume) but not a crisis.

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  4. berend (1,631 comments) says:

    I suppose this measures the litres ready bought in the shop and not home brews?

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  5. Andrei (2,499 comments) says:

    And right on cue Pete George pipes up with his usual patronizing prissiness imagine if UF got the balance of power and Pete George was an MP

    urg – T’would be enough to drive a man to drink

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  6. Colville (2,062 comments) says:

    I am doing my part in keeping the average up!

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  7. Snarkle (118 comments) says:

    But how much was actually purchased as opposed to being available for sale? I assume the 2 figures are similar, but let’s know what both are.

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  8. graham (2,214 comments) says:

    berend – good point.

    I wonder how much is brewed in home-brew around the country? Including beer and spirits? New Zealand has no limit on the amount of home-brew you can produce per year for personal consumption, and that includes spirits. Interestingly, in Australia you’re not allowed to use a still, but I don’t think there’s any such restriction here.

    I have a couple of mates who used to home-brew. Both commented that as a result of brewing in large quantities, they tended to drink a lot more than if they’d bought it!

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  9. kowtow (7,583 comments) says:

    Double standards.

    Alcohol good,tobacco bad.

    If we can plain package smokes then we should plain package booze, and then aeroplanes and cars and………..

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  10. Ed Snack (1,733 comments) says:

    People drink RTD’s for one reason, to get drunk. Why else would you put up with that crap. Wine however is drunk by at least some people for the pleasure of the taste with no intention of getting drunk or for behaviour modification.

    A glass (or two) of wine with dinner is a civilized pleasure, a case of RTD’s is mindless drunken stupor in the making.

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  11. Snarkle (118 comments) says:

    I am a social drinker, you drink habitually, he is an alcoholic.

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  12. Snarkle (118 comments) says:

    Problem drinking is like a mirror- but when we look into it, we see everyone’s face but our own (apologies to Swift).

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  13. David Farrar (1,853 comments) says:

    Ed Snack proves my point by stereotyping RTD drinkers. I’ve been to many a BBQ where people just enjoy a few RTDs in the sun, as people do with beer or wine.

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  14. Pete George (22,754 comments) says:

    It’s ok Andrei, unlikely to happen, so I’ll have time to stay here and oppose those who want to impose their narrow religious views on everyone.

    Hissiness is usually related to frustration and impotence. Good luck getting a party to promote your preferences.

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  15. Snarkle (118 comments) says:

    Q for DPF: the quote was about alcohol ‘available’ for consumption. Is this equal to the amount actually bought? Do we know?

    [DPF: Data on alcohol sold is hard to compile as there are tens of thousands of retailers. Unless there is some reason to think the level of inventory changes, then the industry assumes alcohol available for consumption is roughly equal to alcohol sold]

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  16. Nigel Kearney (864 comments) says:

    “RTD alcohol availability on the rise” just means that drinks people want sell better than drinks people don’t want. It’s more a tautology than an insight. We are supposed to draw the conclusion that RTDs cause people to drink more alcohol than they would otherwise, without any facts being presented to support this conclusion.

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  17. MT_Tinman (2,985 comments) says:

    Most RTDs appear to be not much more than beer strength, if at all.

    Most of those I’ve tried are far too sickly sweet to drink any quantity of.

    Not so for wine which, I can assure you, is, if of any quality at all, damned easy to drink.

    Disclaimer; I’m sitting here now awaiting the delivery of three cases of red out of the five I’ve purchased this week, all at less than $120 per case, delivered.

    Where’s the “crisis” in that?

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  18. Andrei (2,499 comments) says:

    I don’t want to impose anything on anybody Pete George.

    If people want to smoke it is their business

    If people want to drink themselves to death with coke it is their business

    If people want to get shit faced on booze it is their business.

    If people shit faced on booze cause problems for others lock them up until they are sober and then make them pay for any damage they have done – Simple

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  19. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    People have been hitting the turps hard on friday night for years.

    Suddenly it is an “alcohol crisis” and we need to “do something about it”?? :???:

    Frack off wowsers, tut-tutters, conservosocialists etc.

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  20. queenstfarmer (742 comments) says:

    I don’t want to impose anything on anybody

    Except a narrow state-controlled definition of marriage…

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  21. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    Andrei – you liberal you!

    I agree totally, this fixation on alcohol is wrong, poor behaviour towards fellow citizens is the problem whether people are drunk or sober.

    Too often you hear people talk about “but I was drunk…” as though that were an excuse for things they’ve done.

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  22. nasska (10,617 comments) says:

    I’m going to have the mushrooms I had for breakfast analysed…..for the first time I agree with Andre.

    Alcohol consumption, smoking (& recreational sex) are matters for individuals to sort out for themselves. The State may, as a sop, provide education outlining any perils but people should be free to do as they wish yet held responsible for their actions should they seriously infringe on others rights.

    Apart from that any interference is ‘nanny stating’ at its worst.

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  23. dime (9,368 comments) says:

    Ed – translation, you drink wine so its all good. everything else is bad.

    Dime would never drink an RTD, sugary garbage. but id never try and restrict them for peeps who enjoy them.

    also “they only drink them to get drunk”. ummm problem? good for them.

    Dime only drinks to get drunk. Love it.

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  24. gump (1,474 comments) says:

    DPF – it is misleading of you to use per-capita consumption figures when the individual consumption of alcohol is extremely varied.

    The “crisis” in alcohol consumption is caused by the relatively small proportion of people who misuse it.

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  25. RRM (9,427 comments) says:

    A fun experiment, highly recommended to anyone who likes RTDs:

    Walk into the bar sober.
    Ask the barman what Bourbon Whiskeys he has.
    One at a time, drink one of each as a Bourbon & coke.
    Then, drink any bourbon & cola RTD.
    You will notice it is practically the same price.
    You will also notice how utterly utterly rank it is.

    Congratulations! You are now cured of your RTD-drinking affliction.

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  26. James Stephenson (2,010 comments) says:

    DPF – it is misleading of you to use per-capita consumption figures when the individual consumption of alcohol is extremely varied.

    The “crisis” in alcohol consumption is caused by the relatively small proportion of people who misuse it.

    I’m sorry, but it’s you and the other wowsers who are being “misleading”, you don’t get to have it both ways. If “individual consumption” is extremely varied, where do you get off slapping every drinker in the country with your broad-brush penalties?

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  27. graham (2,214 comments) says:

    Here’s another viewpoint on it.

    http://nz.finance.yahoo.com/news/beer-kiwis-think-less-more-213203717.html

    Basically says that Kiwis are becoming more discerning and drinking “craft” or “premium” beers – drinking less, paying more, and enjoying it more. That’s something I can relate to – my favourite beers at the moment are Hobgoblin and Abbot’s Ale, but with prices starting at around $5-6 and going up to around $9 for a 500ml bottle, they ain’t cheap.

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  28. gump (1,474 comments) says:

    @James Stephenson

    I give up numerous liberties for the benefit of society – as do we all.

    It really sucks that a small minority of citizens ruin alcohol consumption for the rest of us. But the fact remains that they are causing immense harm and cost to society through their misuse of alcohol and ensuing behaviour.

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  29. SPC (5,334 comments) says:

    Worldwide we rank 52 for consumption per capita – 27th, ahead of USA, Norway, Mexico, Chile and Japan, amongst OECD nations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_alcohol_consumption

    The stats are from 2005, but we have not increased consumption since then.

    Youth have always misused alcohol, the entry to bars just made this more visible than the household venues of old. Those proposing we go back to the good old days – have to explain how they would control house parties when the age of social media/text messaging would lead to larger gatherings than in the past (this was how the 1981 era riot squads trained).

    The new variable is the pre loading because of the cost differential to bar prices – and this is where RTR’s come into play. The only way to manage this is probably to allow party pills – give 18 year olds an alternative free of binge drinking. But somehow legislation actions seem to have resulted in an alcohol monopoly.

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  30. James Stephenson (2,010 comments) says:

    But the fact remains that they are causing immense harm and cost to society through their misuse of alcohol and ensuing behaviour.

    So the reason why I, and the thousands of other drinkers who manage to enjoy themselves without impinging on anyone else’s existence, must be penalised for the harm that minority cause is….what?

    I don’t mind chipping in for a sick-proof van and drunk tank for Auckland police – I’m willing to bet that being swept up, held overnight, hosed-down and sent home in paper overalls would modify the public behaviour of drunks pretty quickly.

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  31. Richard29 (377 comments) says:

    “Gambling on Lotto is good and celebrated”

    That’s not my experience. People who gamble on Lotto still get mocked. We just try not to do it to your faces…

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  32. gump (1,474 comments) says:

    @James Stephenson

    The harm caused by the minority who misuse alcohol is real. Prevention of that harm offers a net benefit to society.

    It’s the same reason that we limit cars to 100km on the open road, even though skilled drivers with good quality machinery can travel safely at higher speeds.

    If you’re looking to me for a solution to the misuse of alcohol, I do not have one and I do not claim to have one. People drink for different reasons and no single solution will address every situation – except for the blunt instrument of restricting access and raising the price.

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  33. Ed Snack (1,733 comments) says:

    Oh, pardon me for implying that super cheap alcohol labelled as if it was name brand and dollied up with sugary mixers is not a sophisticated choice.

    Thanks too, for making my point David, RTD’s are the equivalent of pre-cooked sausages for the barbeque, or supermarket “dressing” for the salad; fine if you’re too cheap to do it properly with real ingredients, but…

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