Bullshit story on alcohol not backed by the actual data

December 18th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

First the headline:

Little fear in dearer booze

Then the summary:

Alcoholics say minimum pricing would see them reduce intake, not turn to crime.

But what did the data actually say:

• Survey of 115 detox patients who were dependent on alcohol

• On average they had been consuming 24 standard drinks a day, the equivalent of 3 bottles of wine

When asked if their preferred drink became too expensive:

86% said they would switch to a cheaper drink and/or combine their usual drink with something cheaper

• 13% said they would reduce drinking substantially, to continue with their usual drink

So actually the study found that minimum pricing would not in any way reduce alcohol consumption for the vast vast majority of alcoholics. Only 13% say they would drink less if alcohol was much more expensive.

Somehow this damning data is promoted as backing minimum pricing where every single drinker in NZ would have to pay more for alcohol, so that at best 13% of problem drinkers would drink less.

Talk about having a conclusion written regardless of the facts.

There is a huge amount of global evidence that the heavier the drinker the less price sensitive they are. This data back that, not refutes it.

Police bullying supermarkets

December 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Do Wellingtonians really need to be able to buy alcohol after 10pm?

That question was posed on Monday at the first half of a liquor licence hearing for Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie, where there were also suggestions the supermarket should take some responsibility for alcohol-related incidents in the suburb.

Police and the Regional Medical Officer of Health are both putting the heat on Pak ‘n Save to peg back the number of hours it sells alcohol, which is currently between 7am and 11pm.

Police want the hours cut-off at 10pm. But Pak ‘n Save argues that would be unfair given the Countdown supermarket across the road and near-by off-licences would not be subject to the same restrictions.

Once again the Police are trying to set policy. The City Council, under the law, sets maximum hours for off-licenses. But the Police tries to bully supermarkets into different hours.

Pak ‘n Save owner-operator Dean Galt said any restrictions would simply send those looking for alcohol across the road to Countdown Kilbirnie, which had a 7am till 11pm licence, and they would likely do the rest of their grocery shopping there as well.

“Unless everyone is on the same page, no, it’s not going to change the problem,” he said.

“It’s about convenience. If we don’t offer the customers what they want, they will go elsewhere for the whole shop.”

Sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies, of Wellington Police, put it to Galt that most people buying alcohol after 10pm were not buying large amounts of groceries as well, so the supermarket would not be losing that much business.

The Police are wrong, and they are basically making stuff up. I’ve done work in this area and the vast majority of people buying alcohol from a supermarket late at night (or early morning) are buying groceries also. And further they are ot buying alcohol to drink that night, just as part of their regular shopping.

But Galt disagreed and pointed to sales figures he said showed the proportion of groceries sold after 10pm was much larger than its alcohol sales.

The Police should argue on the basis of evidence, not personal preference.

Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie was banned from selling alcohol for five days in June after allowing a pair of 16-year-old boys to buy booze.

But police said the supermarket was otherwise responsible and if it agreed to the 10pm close-off time then the police would remove its objection to the licence renewal.

This is how the Police operate – agree to our terms or we’ll object to your licence. It’s a form of legalised blackmail.

Rapira-Davies said the supermarket needed to take some responsibility for the alcohol-related harm in the Kilbirnie area.

“It’s our experience that people purchasing alcohol late at night are intending to consume it later that night,” he said.

From bottle stores yes, from supermarkets no. The majority are buying it with their weekly groceries to consume later.

“A proportion of the alcohol harm pictures needs to be recognised as belonging to the applicant … the largest volume [in the area] is sold by this licensee.

None of the alcohol harm belongs to the applicant. It belongs to those who do the harm. The applicant’s responsibility is to act within the law, not sell to minors or intoxicated persons.

“It’s not unreasonable for us to have formed that view.”

Actually it is. It is like blaming banks for people who take out cash and spend it on the pokies. The Police in Wellington constantly bully supermarkets.

McQuillan on alcohol and drugs

December 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Laura McQuillian writes at Stuff:

We, my fellow New Zealanders, are scientifically proven to be a nation of pissheads. 

Getting drunk is our true national sport: whoever gets there the fastest, without falling down, wins.

We’re holding our own against the rest of the world: last year’s Global Drug Survey found while Irish blokes led the boozing charge, followed by the Poles, Kiwi men rolled into third place. We’re also third when it comes to binge-drinking: 2.8 per cent of us admit drinking too much nearly every day of the week.

The survey found one in three of us wants to drink less; for one in five of us, a friend, family member or colleague has suggested cutting back.

Only problem is the Global Drug Survey is not scientific. It is a self-selecting survey and not representative of the population. A better survey is the National Health Survey done by Ministry of Health. It shows 20% of over 15s are non-drinkers, 62% are “normal” drinkers and 18% hazardous drinkers.

Everything about our drinking is embarrassing, from the regrettable texts and drunken pashes, to the pools of vomit along Courtenay Place and cancelled brunches on Sunday mornings.

I’m tempted to quip that’s just Laura’s last big weekend out :-)

For some that is how they drink, and in my distant past some of that would apply to me. But that is not the majority of New Zealanders.

In my university days, a group of friends would organise an annual “Ranfurly Shield” event. The challenge: dress in rugby garb and drink a dozen 440ml cans of Ranfurly – arguably New Zealand’s worst beer. The first to finish won a decorated shield. It was a bit of student fun – certainly not a healthy pastime, but all survived unscathed.

Now, the whole country can take part in an event that’s nearly twice as bad: “National Crate Day”. For the fifth year running, a radio station and a booze giant are encouraging Kiwis young and old to drink themselves silly (or potentially to death) on a dozen 745ml bottles – or nine litres – of beer in one day.

Over the weekend, while “celebrating” National Crate Day, a 20-year-old in Nelson fell from the back of a ute, hit his head on the road, and ended up on life support with a brain bleed.

The organisers – The Rock, with support from Super Liquor – ask us to consume 30 standard drinks in a matter of hours, two to three times what’s safe to drink in an entire week.

I agree events like National Crate Day are dangerous and should not be promoted. In fact Super Liquor is probably breaking the law if they are promoting it.

When it comes to drugs, on the other hand, we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves in for. Our ecstasy could just kill us, or we might trip for days from new synthetic drugs like N-bomb.

Zero-tolerance hasn’t stopped the drugs a-flowing: 63.5 per cent of Kiwi survey respondents had smoked pot in their lifetime, and a rather surprising 14.7 per cent had used cocaine. 

I highly doubt 15% have used cocaine. This is the problem of a self-selecting online survey. A 2008 scientific survey found 0.6% of adults have used cocaine.

Legalising drugs could help keep users safe: with regulated sales and education on the risks, users wouldn’t have to buy from a black market of potentially-lethal pills and potions, the government would be able to control who’s selling and help encourage safe use.

Start with decriminalising cannabis. At the same time, teach the tens – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of users how they can continue do so, with full knowledge of what it’s doing to their health, and how they can minimise the risks.

I agree that decriminalising cannabis would be a good thing to do, and allow the focus to go on health and harm prevention.

I have no inclination to use drugs myself – I treasure my brain cells too greatly – but I’d rather those who do use alive and high than preventably dead.

Pushing the issue of drug use under the carpet while letting us drink ourselves to death simply makes no sense.

Again I agree – ideally all drugs would come under the same framework of a health based approach.

2014/15 NZ Health Survey

November 30th, 2015 at 10:14 am by David Farrar

Lots of interesting data in the latest NZ Health Survey.

Some changes from 2007 to 2015:

  • Smoking rate down from 20.1% to 16.6%
  • 15 to 17 year old smoking rate down from 15.7% to 6.1%
  • Maori smoking rate down from 42.1% to 38.1%
  • Drinking (alcohol) rate down from 83.6% to 79.5%
  • 15 to 17 year old drinking rate down from 74.5% to 57.1%
  • Hazardous drinking rate down from 18.0% to 17.7% (but up from low of 14.9% in 2011)
  • 15 to 17 year old hazardous drinking rate down from 19.5% to 10.8%
  • Obesity rate up from 26.5% to 30.7%
  • 15 to 17 year old obesity rate up from 12.0% to 16.4%

So my conclusions are:

  • Smoking rate steadily dropping and teen smoking rate has plummeted which is good. However 5% target for NZ will not be met without a big drop in the Maori smoking rate.
  • A huge drop in the teen drinking rate, which shows how wrong those are claiming the drinking age needs to increase
  • A drop in the overall drinking rate but an increase in the hazardous drinking rate which means measures should target hazardous drinkers, not all drinkers
  • The obesity rate increase starts young. Even under 5s have a 10% obesity rate, which suggests to me parenting is a major factor. Also cultural factors play a big role – 8% of European children are obese, 7% of Asian children, 15% of Maori children and 30% of Pasifika children.

Wendys and alcohol

November 5th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The moral police are up in arms in Christchurch reports Stuff:

Opposition to Wendy’s Hornby’s bid for a liquor licence is building as it emerges there are 17 other places that sell alcohol within a kilometre of the fast-food outlet.

A misleading figure as only six are on-licenses.

Wendy’s Hornby, on Main South Rd, has applied to the Christchurch City Council for a liquor licence between 8am and 11pm, seven days a week.

It is the first-fast food outlet in New Zealand to make such a move.

I don’t think I have eaten at a Wendy’s for 20 years. But if they want to be able to sell beer along with their food, and they comply with the law, why not. Why is a fast food restaurant deemed unsuitable and cafes and other restaurants deemed okay?

Council information supplied to Woods showed there were 17 licensed premises selling alcohol within 1km of the Wendy’s outlet.

“I think there’s plenty of places in the Hornby area where people can go and enjoy a meal and get a drink with it. I don’t think there’s any need for us to be licensing our fast-food restaurants.”

There were six on-licence premises within 1km of Wendy’s Hornby, five club licences and six off-licences, according to the council information.

The 17 number is deceptive as the fact you can buy some wine at a bottle store isn’t a substitute for whether you can have a drink with your meal. So it is really six on-licenses over 100 hectares of area.

Nora Rangi said she would stop taking her seven grandchildren to Wendy’s if the application was granted.

And that’s a fine response. But the owner of Wendy’s should get to make the decision on whether allowing beer and wine with food will lead to more or fewer customers.

In her submission, she said it allowed easy access to view alcohol consumption for young people.

No it is an offence to sell to under 18s, and the Police are vigorous with doing spot checks and prosecuting those who break the law. If Wendy’s sold to under agers they would lose any licence they gained.

Vicki Bretherton said she was worried about Hornby students and the fact people under 18 could be serving alcohol to customers.

No, under 18s can’t sell alcohol.

Several people said they felt comfortable sending their children to Wendy’s unsupervised, but that would change if the application was successful.

And that is not a decision for authorities. That is a decision from them and Wendy’s. If customers don’t like Wendy’s selling alcohol, then stop going. But don’t try and stop them from doing so, unless there is some reason to think they will breach liquor laws.

Wendy’s chief executive Danielle Lendich said last week the company wanted guests to enjoy a beer with a burger if they chose to, and it was a way for Wendy’s to “up its game”.

Non-alcoholic beverages would still be available, and no alcohol would be served at the drive- through or for takeaway guests.

“Many other family and quick service restaurants have liquor licences including Valentines, the old Cobb & Co, Denny’s and Lone Star, and many QSR [quick service restaurant] concepts that have opened more recently also have liquor licences including Burger Burger, Mexicali Fresh, Zambrero, The Coffee Club and Columbus, ” she said.
“Our principal business will remain the provision of meals to the public and we have no intention of becoming a bar or hangout where people sit all night and drink beer.”
I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

NZers were responsible

November 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

Allowing bars to open during Rugby World Cup games didn’t turn the country into the drunken shambles that had been predicted, say the backers of the law change that made it possible.

Police communication centres today said the local aftermath of the All Blacks win over Australia in the Rugby World Cup final in London was quiet.

A law change was made two months ago to allow bars to open early during the tournament, rather than having to apply for special licences. Under the changes, hoteliers had to give police seven days’ notice they would be open.

The change was enabled by a bill from ACT’s sole MP David Seymour, who watched the final at a bar in Auckland’s Mt Eden.

He was happy there had been no major problems and it showed New Zealanders were actually responsible people.

It does.

But there is a bigger lesson about this, and over-regulation.

The current law would have seen far fewer bars able to open, far fewer NZers able to watch the games with their friends, and all sorts of ridiculous requirements and hoops for bars to jump through. And these extra costs would have produced no benefits, as it turned out that actually most people do the right thing.

So let this perhaps be a lesson the next time the nae sayers warn of doom and gloom unless we pass some law to regulate our behaviour.

Is a supermarket responsible after hours for its car park?

November 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A central Wellington supermarket has been accused of being “willfully blind” to years of drunken violence in its car park after hours, including a 30-man brawl just weeks ago.

The car park at New World Wellington City, generally known as Chaffers New World, on Wakefield St has become such a hub for alcohol abuse, fights, theft and disorderly conduct after dark on weekends that police have dubbed it and Blair St “Wellington’s crime corridor”.

New World’s liquor licence is now under threat as a result. It sought a renewal from the Wellington District Licensing Committee on Friday but police raised serious questions about whether it should be granted.

Once the supermarket is closed, surely it is the responsibility of the Police to deal with crime in the carpark, and has nothing to do with the supermarket?

Police told the licensing committee that the majority of those at fault were “young” people either pre-loading before heading to bars in Wellington’s CBD, or side-loading between visits to pubs on Friday and Saturday nights.

In the 12 months since June 2014, the car park was the scene of 30 violence and disorder callouts, 18 alcohol-related harm callouts and 12 theft callouts, excluding shoplifting)

In the early hours of October 11, Police were called to quell a large fight involving up to 30 people.

Two Wellington police officers said they had been raising concerns about the car park since 2013 but their impression was that the store did not care what happened after closing, and was only prepared to do “the minimum” to address it.

Young people go to large open spaces – whether it be car parks or parks. Again why is the supermarket responsible for what happens when they are closed?

Wellington City New World director Gary Baker said he was only made aware of the car park issues in December 2014, and had been working with police to solve the problem since then.

Two extra security cameras had been installed in the car park, the lights were now left on overnight and security guards had been employed after hours.

Sounds responsible.

Chaining up the car park was problematic because some staff, like shelf-fillers and bakers, worked outside of trading hours and it could be dangerous if they had to park further away, Baker said.

The majority of alcohol being consumed in New World’s car park after hours was not purchased at the supermarket, although some of it was, police said.

So if most of the alcohol is purchased elsewhere, again why scapegoat New World?


The carnage the Greens tried to protect us from

September 21st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sideways rain and a biting cold was no deterrent for die-hard Wellington rugby fans who got up in the middle of the night to support the All Blacks.

Hundreds of fans turned out to Wellington bars to see New Zealand play Argentina live at 3.20 Monday morning, New Zealand time.

Wellingtonians Abi Thomas and Philip Stretton were some of the brave ones who got up before dawn to support the boys in black.

Thomas said she could hardly sleep, which made it easier to get up before dawn for the game. She had a day off work Monday so was sipping on a beer.

Stretton wasn’t so lucky, he was drinking coffee and planned to have a few more before his 7.30am start at work.

Hotel Bristol owner Akio Shigeeda said the fans who watched at the Cuba St bar were “really good”.

“The bulk of our sales were breakfasts and coffees, teas, a lot of post-mix, a few beers but nothing excessive, which is good for the police and good for licensing.”

But the Greens told us people would be rolling out drunk past schools, as kids were arriving!

Owner of Dixon St bar Four Kings, Matt McLaughlin, also said they had a good turnout for the All Blacks game, and for the game before it.

About 30 people turned out to the bar for the Wales versus Uruguay match at 1.15am, and about 100 people for the All Blacks versus Argentina game.

“It was a great little crowd,” he said.

McLaughlin said the numbers were pretty standard for a match that early in the morning.

A group of Welsh rugby fans had come in from an all-nighter, but they were well behaved, he said.

“They were fine, they weren’t intoxicated…it proved the point that [an early license is] quite easy to manage.”

Yes you can do an all nighter and not be pissed.

Wellington police did the rounds of bars on Monday morning, and found everything in order, police communications acting shift commander Megan Gouverneur said.

“We had no trouble, no one rolling out on the streets.”

In other words, nothing happened which the nanny statists warned would happen.

Alcohol sachet ban rejected

August 28th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Auckland community group concerned with keeping Eden Park secure has had its calls for a ban on alcohol sachets rejected by the Government.

Good. They are banned at Eden Park, as is the right of Eden Park. But it would be dramatic overkill to ban them through out New Zealand, in an attempt to stop them being used at Eden Park.

The small pouches contain 20 per cent alcohol and can be hidden in a hand, pocket or wallet. They are cheap, with six sachets costing about $10. According to one manufacturers’ website, this amount of alcohol “certainly packs more punch than your average RTD.”

And cost a lot more. I did the calculations in July:

This is for the equivalent of four standard drinks:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer – $4.40
  • 350 mls of 14% wine – $4.67
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD – $4.82
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits – $4.62
  • 250 mls of 20% Cheeky – $20

So in fact they cost four to five times more than other drinks.


Bishop with some alcohol facts

August 27th, 2015 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

Pleased to see Parliament vote 99-21 to allow bars to easily open during the Rugby World Cup. Kudos to David Seymour for getting this law change through Parliament.

I was thinking about the Greens demanding that bars near schools not be allowed to open, even though only three out of 58 games will take place on a schoolday morning. If they had their way I imagine the Backbencher pub in Wellington would have to remain closed, despite it being a very popular rugby destination. You see the Backbencher is very close to not one, not two, not three, but four schools. How terrible. In fact I’m surprised the Greens are not demanding the Backbencher be never allowed to open at all, as hell kids walking down Molesworth Street at 3.30 pm may see people in the Backbencher!

During the debate Chris Bishop addressed some of the claims that alcohol use and abuse in New Zealand has got worse since the laws were liberalised.

I want to put on the record some actual facts around alcohol consumption in New Zealand society. Firstly, the World Health Organization in 2014 did a global report on the use of alcohol in society. Actually what that report shows is that by international standards New Zealanders actually drink a moderate amount. We are 96th in the world for alcohol consumption. We drink about 13.7 pure litres of alcohol per capita. That places us 96th in the world. It is slightly less than the United Kingdom; it is slightly more than France. So actually we are, internationally, average drinkers. What about binge drinking? Well, by international standards New Zealanders are very low binge-drinkers. Our prevalence rate of binge drinking is 5.6 percent. That is half that of Australia’s

So 96th in the world, and a binge drinking rate half of Australia’s.

That is half that of Australia’s, it is a quarter of Canada’s, and it is one-sixth of the United Kingdom’s binging prevalence rate. So is the assertion that we are a nation of binge-drinkers correct? No.

Some NZers binge drink regularly. By far most do not.

The proportion of young people who drink has dropped 25 percent in the last 5 years—that is from 2007 to 2012. It is one-third that of the rate in 2000. What about the number of people who are regular drinkers? That dropped 9 percent between 2007 and 2012. The number of people who are regular drinkers is half that it was in 2000—this is amongst young people. What about the people who are young binge-drinkers? What about the number of people who say that they binge drank in the last month? Between 2007 and 2012 the number of young people in New Zealand who say that they binge drank in the last month has dropped by 18 percent.

And youth drink driving is also well down. The trend for youth drinking is decisively going down – the exact opposite of the impression the wowsers give.

Wowser watch

August 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has an article quoting dozens of groups saying terrible things will happen if bars can automatically open for RWC games.

To me this shows exactly why the law change is needed. Any bar that tried to get a special licence to open would have these same groups flood the licensing authority with objections. The cost of getting a licence, and ridiculous conditions imposed would mean few would actually be able to open.

The most hysterical submission was:

National Community Action on Youth and Drugs workers are concerned the RWC will become a “marathon drinking challenge” with “24 hour drinking” dares like the “ice bucket challenge” laid down on social media, and fighting in the streets.

Or rugby fans will just head down to the bar at 5.30 am to watch the All Blacks over a couple of beers.

More activism with no evidence

August 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New figures collected by Regional Public Health suggests benefits from pushing back the cut-off time for selling alcohol to 4am has worn off, with binge-drinkers – university students in particular – back to their old habits.

In other words, as predicted, the change of closing times didn’t work. But instead of admitting this, they claim try more of the same.

Police and Regional Public Health began experimenting in January with supporting new bottle stores in the CBD if they agree to restrict their operating hours and sell “premium” liquor only.

Since then, four licences have been granted to new bottle stores that agree not to sell the cheap stuff, while another existing bottle store has pegged back its hours and promised to deal only in high-quality booze.

Stephen Palmer, a Wellington region medical officer of health, said another bottle store in Cuba St was being encouraged to go down the same path.

The aim was not to run mainstream beer out of town, but to reduce its availability and “nudge” the public towards drinking smaller amounts of more expensive beer and wine, he said.

Palmer put Tui, Lion Red, DB Draught and Heineken in the mainstream category, while the likes of Tuatara and Moa were more at the craft beer end of the spectrum.

This is outrageous. The Police and health officials are now trying to dictate what brands of beer can be sold. I’m a fan of craft beer, but to say you’ll only support granting an alcohol licence to outlets that only stock craft beer is taxpayer funded activism which goes well beyond their statutory role.

Police and Regional Public Health were now opposing all liquor licence applications for “mainstream” bottle stores, he said.

So the NZ Police now want to decide what brands of beer are okay to sell. The Minister should bash the Commissioner ears and warn him that public confidence in the Police will decline, if they continue this social activism.

Fewer retailers and bars selling booze to minors

August 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The number of people appearing before the courts for selling alcohol to minors halved between 2012 and 2014, despite an increase in police stings.

Police figures show 82 people were prosecuted for selling alcohol to minors at on and off-licences New Zealand wide in 2012 operations and 81 in 2013. In 2014 that figure nearly halved to 42. …

Police carried out 2839 controlled purchase operations in 2012 and caught 258 premises selling alcohol to minors. In 2013 they carried out 2771 and caught 232. In 2014 they carried out 3013 and caught 224.

So the strike rate in 2012 was 9.1%, in 2013 it was 8.4% and in 2014 it was 7.4%.

Hopefully this means that bars and retailers are being more stringent in checking for ID.

38 year olds and alcohol

August 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new study has dispelled the myth that having drunken sex before waking to a world of regret is only common among young New Zealanders.

Depends on your definition of common. The study found 13% of 38 year olds had regrets, which means 87% did not. Not sure I’d call that common.

It also reveals Kiwis are more likely to have at least one heavy drinking session a week at the age of 38 than when they were 32. 

But it also reveals that are more likely to have had no heavy drinking sessions at all.

The University of Otago study has shown drinking alcohol before sex remains common among people approaching middle age and can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and abortion. 

Linking two things here, which are quite different.

Yes many 38 year olds have alcohol before sex. If you have a glass of wine over dinner with your partner and then you have sex, that counts as alcohol before sex. Is that somehow bad? It is not surprise that 82% of 38 year olds have said they sometimes have alcohol before sex

Those who have regretful sex with bad conseqences is far less common – only 13%.

“We feel young people drink a lot because we see a lot of it, but really the whole population drinks a lot,” the study’s lead author Professor Jennie Connor said.

The study found that 53% of 38 year old men and 73% of 38 year old women have had no heavy drinking occasions (20% and 35%) or rare (less than monthly) ones (33% and 39%).

The definition of heavy drinking is not apparent in the article, but I presume it is four or more standard drinks. So share a bottle of wine over dinner and that is a heavy drinking occasion.

When they were assessed at 38 years of age, 8 per cent of men and almost 15 per cent of women in the study said they usually or always drunk alcohol before having sex in the previous 12 months. Only 20 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women said they never did so.

The actual data is:

  • Always 0.5% men/1.6% women
  • Usually 8%/13%
  • Sometimes 42%/40%
  • Rarely 30%/30%
  • Never 20%/15

I don’t see any problem with the 92% of 38 year old men who sometimes, rarely or never have alcohol before sex, or 85% of women. So the problem group is around in 12 men and one in 7 women.

About 14 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women reported some adverse effects of drinking before sex in that year, including regretting sex and failure to use contraception or condoms.

Only 13% have had an adverse effect, which means 87% have not.

The study showed that drinking heavily at least once a week was more common at 38 years of age than it had been at 32.

Yes, but not mentioned is not drinking at all also more common at age 38. Only the bad data has been highlighted by the author.

The change in heavy drinking occasions were:

  • Never 11% to 20% for men/34% to 35% for women
  • Less than monthly 34% to 33%/30% to 39%
  • Monthly to less than weekly 34% to 24%/19% to 17%
  • Weekly 21% to 24%/7% to 10%

So if we group never and less than monthly together as light and weekly to monthly as heavy then the data is:

  • Light drinking men – from 45% to 53%
  • Light drinking women – from 74% to 73%
  • Heavy drinking men – from 55% to 47%
  • Heavy drinking women – from 26% to 27%

So the argument that heavy drinking is more common at age 38 than 32 is not supported. Women have stayed much the same, and men are having fewer heavy drinking occasions.

Note I have done this post based on reading the actual academic article, and the data. That requires more work than just repeating the press release.


Dom Post on Rugby World Cup bars

August 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Changing the rules, however, proved much more tortured than it needed to be. The ACT MP David Seymour saw an opportunity to throw off the yoke of alcohol licensing laws, and introduced a bill to let pubs open for all cup games. Yet the Greens at first scuppered the effort, concerned, they said, about drunks spilling out of bars as parents dropped children off at school.

So Prime Minister John Key said he would consider urgent legislation, and levelled that the Greens were eternally “opposed to anything that’s sort of vaguely good fun”.

It’s true that the political rituals of this are wearying – the male politicians bragging about how much they enjoy beer, the charge that all those concerned about alcohol harm are wowsers.

Yet the Greens’ complaints were too precious by half. This wasn’t the issue on which to make a heroic stand about the perils of drink. Relatively few people will race to a pub to see the All Blacks stomp on Namibia at 7am on a Friday – and only a handful will drink too much as they do so.

Judging by past Football World Cup games screened at dawn in Courtenay Place, more fans are likely to eat a pub breakfast on their way to work. In any case, several All Blacks games start at 8am, when pubs can be open anyway.

The Greens pointed out that pubs can already apply for special licences to show cup games. But those require outlets to jump through silly hoops, like imposing a fancy-dress requirement or holding a quiz. No-one needs such frippery at 4am.

By yesterday afternoon, the Greens seemed to have realised this – they withdrew their opposition to Seymour’s bill, apparently after assurances that it would be tweaked.

The bill was always open to amendment at select committee. Nothing has changed there.

The real story is that on Tuesday night, after they refused leave for the bill to be introduced, was the annual function of Saunders Unsworth. This is one of those events where half of Parliament attends, along with scores of business and community leaders, plus media.

It is a great networking event. You have around 50+ conversations with different people, normally on very different topics.

I understand from multiple sources that James Shaw and Julie-Anne Genter had dozens of conversations with people there. But there was only one topic. Why the hell did you stop the bill to allow bars to be open for the rugby. As the night wore on, I think they realised how badly they had stuffed up. This was summed up by this tweet from their supporter, Danyl:

The next day the Greens changed their stance 100%.

The opposition to the bill was obviously led by Kevin Hague who denounced the idea of bars being open as appalling – drunken revellers spilling out of pubs as schools open. I wonder if the new co-leader effectively pulled rank and just told his caucus that they need to back down on this, or be tainted with it for years to come?

What a surprise!

August 11th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland’s night-time revellers have spoken – there’s no room for a dry bar in the city.

Tap Bar, the country’s first alcohol-free bar, has shut its doors after only five weeks of business on Karangahape Rd.

This is not surprising.

It’s not far removed from launching a cafe with no food.

Tap Bar, which stands for The After Party, charged a $15 entry fee and non-alcoholic drink prices started at $5.

A $15 entry fee and inflated prices for soft drinks?

Elliott said the bar had a few customers but they drank water and little money was passed over the counter.

If you want to stop drinking alcohol, water is a very good choice.

Wrong to say alcohol causes cancer

July 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Dr Samir Zakhari of the US Distill Spirits Council writes in Stuff:

Cancer is not an easy topic.  Most of us will know someone who has been affected by this terrible disease in its many forms.

And as a society we are desperately seeking both the cause and the cure for cancers with great advancements being made on both counts.  But as our knowledge advances one thing is clear – to say that one thing causes cancer is simply wrong.

Unfortunately last month in Wellington a group of academics made such a claim – and not for the first time.  They said that alcohol causes cancer which is simply incorrect and not supported by any credible research .

The reality is excessive use of alcohol can be one of many factors, but that is not the same as saying “causes”:

Cancers are caused by many things. The key to managing the risk of getting cancer is knowing what those factors are and trying to manage exposure to them. And yes, immoderate consumption of alcohol over an extended period of time does increase your risk of getting some cancers – as does lack of exercise, diet, genetics, age, gender, smoking, drug use and a range of other lifestyle-related factors.

Alcohol is not the same as tobacco. Tobacco is harmful to you full stop. Alcohol is fine in moderation.

Globally there is recognition that moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle.  There are many well-documented health benefits associated with moderate consumption – particularly in later life and associated with cardio-vascular function.

The key to this statement is the word ‘moderate’.

The New Zealand Government’s Health Promotion Agency recommends that, to reduce the long-term health impacts associated with alcohol, women should have no more than two standard drinks a day and men no more than three with both sexes having at least two non-drinking days a week.

Again, moderation.

Dr Zakhari’s background:

Dr Samir Zakhari is a researcher on the medical effects of alcohol consumption, and a former director of the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects with the American National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. He is now senior vice president of science at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

UPDATE: The article in Stuff was edited from the original submitted, which made it less clear. The paragraph that was submitted is:

Unfortunately this week in Wellington a group of well-intentioned researchers made such a claim – and not for the first time.  They said that moderate alcohol consumption causes cancer.  While chronic abusive alcohol consumption is associated with a plethora of health problems including cancer, attributing cancer to social moderate drinking is simply incorrect and is not supported by the body of scientific literature.

So chronic alcohol consumption is a factor, but moderate consumption is not.

Not an alarmingly high rate

July 8th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald headline:

Drinking during pregnancy occuring at ‘alarmingly high rate’

So what is this alarmingly high rate?

Up to 80 per cent of women in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Ireland have admitted drinking alcohol during the early stages of pregnancy, according to a new report.

Well if 80% of women were drinking during pregnancy that would be alarmingly high. But not the weasel word of up to.

The prevalence of drinking ranged from 20 per cent to 80 per cent of women in Ireland and between 40 per cent and 80 per cent in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

Now it is from 40% to 80%. There is just one prevalence rate for NZ, so why not just give it?

Professor Lesley McCowan, the head of Auckland University’s department of obstetrics and gynaecology, who contributed to the study, said 23 per cent of participants reported being alcohol-free when they became pregnant.

“Of the 53 per cent (1063) women who reported that they drank any alcohol in the first trimester, 917 (86 per cent) stopped drinking by six weeks of pregnancy. Stopping drinking is likely to have corresponded with having a positive pregnancy test. So the large majority of these Auckland women are likely to have stopped drinking as soon as pregnancy was diagnosed.

Now we get to the actual data. It is that once a woman knew she was pregnant only 14% of the 53% still drank. That is a 7.4% rate – not alarmingly high I’d say.

“12 per cent of women reported that they were still drinking alcohol when seen by the SCOPE research team at 20 weeks of pregnancy and 95 per cent of these women were only having 1 to 2 units of alcohol weekly at this time.

So 0.6% were drinking in an excessive way.

Obviously the ideal rates are 0%, but the actual data is very different to the sensationalist headlines and claims.

Is Cheeky cheap?

July 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An Eden Park group is urging Justice Minister Amy Adams to ban palm-sized alcohol sachets, which are being found scattered around the stadium grounds after big games.

An Auckland councillor representing the Eden Park Community Liaison Group is particularly worried that the sachets can be easily smuggled into events with booze restrictions, adding to the country’s already high rate of alcohol harm.

Despite widespread concern that came with their entrance into the market in 2013 – and police dismay at the time – the sachets are still available at some bottle stores for less than $2 each.

Councillor Cathy Casey, a member of the liaison group, said Eden Park management was worried at how many were being taken into the grounds at big events, despite liquor licences banning people bringing their own alcohol.

In light of the complaints, she bought some of the 25ml sachets and was alarmed to find that Cheeky products, flavoured in three varieties and containing around 0.4 standard drinks each, carried a relatively high alcohol concentration of 20 per cent.

Dr Casey was further worried that a powdered alcohol product branded as “Palcohol” could also soon be available in New Zealand, after just being approved for sale in the United States. On behalf of the group, she has written to Ms Adams asking her to intervene and ban the importation of alcohol sachets and powder.


No the Government should not ban a particular type of alcohol. Alcohol is alcohol and prohibition in the past has been a miserable failure.

Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre, doubted banning the products would have a big impact on binge drinking but supported the call all the same.

Dr Sellman did not consider their low price a major factor but there was concern the sachets made alcohol more accessible, especially in public places where booze was either banned or restricted.

And people can pour vodka into lemonade. Will we ban vodka?

As for the so called low price, well is $2 for 0.4 of a stand drink cheap? Let’s compare. To have four standard drinks this way would cost you $20.

Four standard drinks is also:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer
  • 350 mls of 14% wine
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits

So what is the cost from The Mill for each:

  • 1 litre of 5% beer – $4.40
  • 350 mls of 14% wine – $4.67
  • 700 mls of 7% RTD – $4.82
  • 140 mls of 37.5% spirits – $4.62
  • 250 mls of 20% Cheeky – $20

So these so called low cost Cheeky drinks are not a cheap source of alcohol. They are a massively over-priced rip off. They cost so much the average tight student will never ever get drunk on them. Public health advocates should be promoting them, not trying to ban them!

Some facts on alcohol

June 23rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar

Eric Barker at Time gives us some facts on alcohol backed up by research:


Public drinking fines fair enough

June 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A second police crackdown on drinking in public has resulted in 40 young people being fined $250 each in just three hours.

Wellington police carried out the blitz in the central city, targeting people breaching the liquor ban on Saturday night. 

After an earlier operation two weeks ago, which netted 60 people breaking the bylaw, police publicly warned  they would carry out another on Saturday. Senior Sergeant Steve Dearns, who led both operations, said he was “concerned” so many people were still being caught.

But Victoria University’s students’ association is calling the fines punitive, and says hitting young people in the pocket won’t address the causes of “pre-loading”.

There is no “cause” of pre-loading. It’s simply a decision to but alcohol from off-licenses and drink it before going to an on-license.

If they were not being violent or committing vandalis, a warning and tipping out the booze would be fairer, association president Rick Zwaan said. “This $250 fine seems to be a bit punitive.”

I think the idea is that the fine will deter them from doing it in future.

Zwaan said it was no wonder students drank in the streets when alcohol was so expensive in bars, and university hostels set curfews on drinking indoors.  “It’s pretty unaffordable to drink out in the city.” 

Oh cry me a river. First of all it is no hard to drink past the curfew in a hostel, so long as you are not too rowdy. Secondly most students have lots of friends who live in flats. To claim there is no alternative but to drink in the street is crap.


May 21st, 2015 at 2:52 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Run out of alcohol, and don’t fancy driving to get more? A new Wellington delivery service promises to bring it to your door within 45 minutes.

Quenched,  founded by friends David Loveridge, Tom Brown and Anika Rani, officially launched last week – but already it has come under fire for providing an easy way for drunk people to “refuel”.

It’s a lot better option than people driving to the bottle store!

New Zealand Medical Association chairman Stephen Child said he deplored any move that made it easier to access alcohol in a way that could lead to abuse.

All alcohol can lead to abuse, so I presume Dr Child wants all vineyards closed down?

However, Loveridge said Quenched aimed to provide a convenient and fast service, not to encourage irresponsible drinking.

“Everything is legal, and we definitely don’t want to encourage bad drinking.”

The delivery team checked buyers’ identities on arrival, and would only hand over the order to the person who made it, he said.

If the clients were underage or intoxicated, the order would not be delivered. Instead, the customers would received a full refund, but be charged a $20 callout fee.

Sounds responsible.

“It’s been quite good. We’ve been run off our feet, which is fantastic.”

The idea to start up an alcohol delivery business started with a run and ended with a beer.

“My mate Tom and I went for a long run and we were pretty knackered when we got home, so we got a couple of stubbies but before we had showers we wanted another one, but we didn’t have any left.

“And we couldn’t walk because we were sore from the run. We needed a solution to that problem, and that is what we did.”

I think it could prove very popular. Yes there will be some who will drink to excess (and do so regardless of this service) but for many it will just be an extra convenience, and reduce the temptation for someone to drink drive.

Wowsers don’t give up

May 20th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s top medical body had called for a clampdown on our rampant boozing, including banning advertising, raising the drinking age, and increasing taxes.

In a “briefing” published on Tuesday, the New Zealand Medical Association says the Government needs to intervene more heavily in the liquor industry for the nation’s collective health.

“We consider it vital to ensure that policies to reduce alcohol-related harm are based on the best available evidence, not on ideology or on the basis of lobbying by vested commercial interests.”

I agree. Ideology does get in the way of evidence. Let’s look at the evidence:

There is of course still significant harm caused by alcohol abuse, just as there is also significant pleasure caused by non abusive consumption of alcohol. What is clear in numerous indicators is the trend is positive. That is not industry research, but data from Stats NZ, the Ministry of Health and ALAC.

But the health activists ignore it, because it is an inconvenient fact.

The association said the liberalisation of drinking laws in 1989, combined with increasingly sophisticated liquor marketing, had encouraged a culture of heavy drinking, which had “resulted in what some researchers term an ‘alcogenic’ environment”.

Actually the WHO has found there has been a reduction in drinking habits in the last 30 years.

Raising the legal alcohol purchasing age, for both on and off-licences, to 20

Parliament has voted four times on this issue in 12 years. Each time it has been for 18, not 20. You’re beating a dead horse.



Calorie labels for alcohol

May 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The fashion for large wine glasses has fueled a rise in the number of “invisible” calories people are inadvertently consuming through alcohol, the chair of the Royal Society for Public Health has warned. …

The European Union is considering whether to remove the exemption for alcohol and was due to report back in December, but has so far not ruled on the issue. A recent survey found that 80 per cent of the 2,117 adults questioned did not know the calorie content of common drinks, and most were completely unaware that alcohol contributed to the total calories that they consumed.

Most respondents were in favour of calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks.

The US Food and Drug Administration has mandated calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks from December 2015 in US restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets.

It seems strange to have calorie labelling on food and non alcoholic drinks, but not on alcoholic drinks.

I’m in favour of treating alcoholic drinks the same as non-alcoholic drinks, and mandating they should have calorie information.

For those interested the calorie counts for some common alcohol is:

  • half bottle of wine – 350 calories
  • Six pack of beer – 900 calories
  • hip flask of vodka – 820 calories
  • 4 RTDs – 920 calories

Parent convicted under new alcohol law

May 1st, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The mother of a 14-year-old girl hosted alcohol-fuelled parties for her daughter’s friends that ended with under-age teens vomiting and passed out.

Bronwyn Tracey Saunders, 46, supplied alcohol to several teenagers her daughter invited to two parties held at their house late last year.

She was convicted and fined $2000 in the Christchurch District Court this month on six charges of supplying alcohol to minors after parents of the teenagers she bought alcohol for complained to police.

It is the first conviction for supplying alcohol to minors in Canterbury under new liquor laws that came into effect in December 2013. …

Saunders hosted two parties at her house attended by 20 to 30 of her daughter’s friends and on both occasions accepted money from teenagers to buy them alcohol.

In November, her daughter set up a “Year 9 drinks” Facebook group chat and told her friends if any of them wanted alcohol, they needed to give her money and she would pass it on to her mother to buy it.

Saunders’ daughter then met three of her male friends at Christchurch Boys’ High School where they gave her money. Saunders gave them beer and cider at the party the next day.

According to police, several children at the party, including her daughter, were so intoxicated they were vomiting.

That’s appalling parenting – both buying alcohol for all your children’s friends without their parents consent, but also hosting parties where 14 year olds are passing out and vomiting.

Good parents often will allow their children to drink alcohol – in moderation and with supervision. But buying unlimited alcohol for 14 year olds and allowing them to drink themselves unconscious is awful. I’m glad the new law now allows a prosecution.