The Super 8 voice of change

August 20th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Eight schools in the Central North Island are competing in the Super 8 voice of change where they create music videos to promote a change in the binge drinking culture that some students have. A very good initiative as having your peers get creative to send a message is probably far more effective than having adults lecture on alcohol.

Here’s one of the entries from Napier Boys High. I may blog some of the others also. You can vote on Facebook for who you think should win.

This particular video has 2,280 likes and 398 shares so is obviously reaching a large audience. Again, a smart little initiative.


Why not close at 6 pm?

August 8th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Kate Chapman at Stuff reports:

One-way doors from 1am and shutting bars from 3am is the best to curb alcohol problems in Wellington, police say.

Why stop at 1 am and 3 am? How about 11 pm? or we could bring back 6 pm closing – I mean that worked so well in the past.

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Youth Drinking

August 5th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I was one of those who strongly opposed the recent attempt to increase the alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20. A hysteria had been generated about drinking in NZ, and especially youth drinking – and many blamed the change in the purchase age in 1999.

The reality is that a number of surveys had shown that youth drinking had declined, not increased, since then. Once these facts got out to MPs, I think it helped the majority of them make the sensible decision not to scapegoat 18 and 19 year olds.

One of the significant pieces of research is a study done by Auckland University every few years of almost 10,000 secondary students. Their 2000 and 2007 studies showed a significant decline in youth drinking during that period.

Well last week the 2012 study came out, and the data was fascinating. It showed beyond any doubt that there had been significant drops in the number of school students who drink, and who drink regularly or binge, since 2000.



That is a seismic shift. It totally blows away the myths about youth drinking having got far worse, based on anecdotal stories and media horror stories.

  • The proportion of students who have drunk alcohol has dropped 25%, or around a third from 2000.
  • The proportion of students who are current drinkers has dropped 25%, just over a third from 2000
  • The proportion of students who drink regularly (weekly) has dropped 9%, just over one half from 2000
  • The proportion of students who have binge drinked (five or more in a session) in the last month has dropped 18%, or just under a half from 2000

Also of interest:

  • The proportion of students who have driven after drinking has fallen from 7.8% to 3.9% – a drop of a half.
  • The proportion of students who have been in a car with a driver who has been drinking has fallen from 27.8% to 18.4% – a drop of one third.

On the non alcohol side:

  • The proportion of students who have smoked cannabis dropped from 38.2% to 23.0%
  • The proportion of students who smoke tobacco weekly dropped from 6.7% to 3.2%
  • The proportion of students who have had sex dropped from 31.3% to 24.4%
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A 1% reduction

July 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A policy limiting bars’ opening hours would reduce the amount of alcohol Christchurch people drink by as little as 1 per cent, according to a city council report.

The draft Local Alcohol Policy would also cost the region more to implement than it would save in alcohol-related healthcare and police services. It could also deter bars and licensed premises from rebuilding in the central city.

Those are among the findings of a report commissioned by the Christchurch City Council that compares the costs and benefits of the draft policy.

The district-wide policy proposes a one-way door rule from 1am in the central city and a blanket 1am closing for suburban licensed premises in a bid to help curb the city’s alcohol-related issues.

The hearing of submissions on the policy begins today and is expected to last four days.

The report concluded the economic costs of the policy would outweigh the economic benefits.

In other words, the policy will achieve almost nothing, but impose costs on businesses and remove choice for residents.

It is good the Council agreed to do an economic analysis of their proposed policy. Hopefully they will listen to their own report, and not give into the wowsers.

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Group 1 carcinogens

July 2nd, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Thomas Lumley at Stats Chat blogs a quote from Professor Doug Sellman:

The ethanol in alcohol is a group one carcinogen, like asbestos

Now I have to say I had no idea what a group one carcinogen is, but Prof Sellman makes it sound like something very very nasty and fatal.

Prof Lumley explains:

Many of the readers of this story won’t know what a “group one carcinogen” is.  Given the context, a reader might well assume that “group one carcinogens” are those that carry the largest risks of cancer, or cause the most serious cancers. In fact, all it means is that an additional hazard of cancer, whether high or low, has been definitely established, because that’s all the IARC review process tries to do.

So it is a fancy name for some risk, not high risk.

Some group 1 carcinogens, such as tobacco and hepatitis B, are responsible for large numbers of cancer deaths worldwide. Others, such as plutonium and diethylstilbestrol, are responsible only for small numbers of deaths. Some group 1 carcinogens cause aggressive, untreatable tumours; for others, such as human papillomavirus, disease is largely preventable by screening; still others, such as sunlight, sometimes cause serious disease but mostly cause relatively minor tumours.

The phrase “group one carcinogen” is only relevant in an argument over whether the risk is zero or non-zero. Its use in other contexts suggests that someone doesn’t know what it means, or perhaps hopes that you don’t.

I am sure Prof Sellman knows exactly what it means.

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Drinkers not stupid

June 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

The eight Wellington city councillors who voted to ban off-licence alcohol sales after 9pm in the hope of curbing the harm from people guzzling booze before they hit the pubs have overlooked one very important point – their targets are not stupid.

Unlike the Councillors arguably!

The move will not stop the pre-loaders from getting a head start before they go out for the night. If anything, it is likely to see them start drinking excessively earlier in the evening, causing more problems than it will solve while penalising every responsible drinker from one end of the city to the other.

Yep, it will. Many don’t start drinking at home until 10 pm or so but if they have to go buy the alcohol before 9 pm, the parties will simply start earlier and last longer.

Councillors who support the proposal, adopted by eight votes to seven, say it will help prevent people pre-loading at home or side-loading – avoiding paying bar prices by ducking out of pubs to buy takeaway alcohol or to consume previously hidden caches.

The desire to tackle those problems is laudable. Pre- and side-loading are undeniably factors in the excessive levels of intoxication that are a blight on Wellington’s nightlife.

However, simply banning off-licence sales after 9pm will solve nothing. It is absurd to believe it will be beyond the wit of those who pre- and side-load to get organised enough to visit off-licences before they have to stop selling alcohol.

Yet, it will disadvantage someone doing their household shopping late at night, who can’t buy a bottle of wine with it.

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WCC vs bar owners

June 5th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Kerry McBride at Stuff reports:

Wellington city centre bar owners are looking at legal action to fight plans they say could kill Wellington’s nightlife.

Wellington City Council officers have presented a briefing to councillors on the draft local alcohol policy, suggesting a precinct approach to trading hours, with different hours allowed for different areas.

Three “entertainment precincts” in Courtenay Place, Cuba St and the waterfront would be allowed licences until 5am, while other inner-city bars would have to shut at 2am.

Suburban venues and a “high risk” zone around Newtown would be restricted to midnight closing.

At present, 3am licences are standard for inner-city bars, with some “best practice” owners able to apply for later licences.

A group of 14 bar owners, representing more than 30 venues, is now investigating an injunction to stop the proposal reaching the council table.

Matt McLaughlin, who owns three bars, said the industry was sick of being pushed around by the council when off-licences and people drinking at home then going out were the real issue.

“It’s not fair because we are not the main problem. We’ve had a gutsful.”

Bryce Mason, owner of Sandwiches in Kent Tce, said the policy would be the death of his bar, which would fall outside the main entertainment zone, restricting him to a 2am licence.

Sandwiches closing at 2 am would be ridiculous. The concept of different times for different zones is not a bad one, but the areas can’t be arbitrary. To have Sandwiches close at 2 am and bars 50 metres up the road closing at 5 am is nuts.

Steve Drummond, from The Green Man pub, said kicking people out of bars at 2am would create huge problems in the streets, and force more people into fewer venues.

It would destroy some businesses, but “we are not going to stand by and let that happen”.

if some bars close at 2 am, it won’t mean their customers will go home. They will go up the road.

Councillor John Morrison said the restrictive hours would completely change the bar scene of Wellington and make events such as the rugby sevens impossible to host effectively.

“The hospitality industry is vital here, it’s our lifeblood. It’s completely contrary to the economic goals of the city to shut things down like this.”

A 2 am closing after the Sevens would be nuts.

The whole CBD should be treated as one area. May be very sensible to have some suburbs on different hours, but bars that are within walking distance of each other should be treated the same.

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All the fault of Big Alcohol and the supermarkets

May 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Sellman Letter on Aaron Gilmoreon


So Professor Sellman says it is all the fault of Big Alcohol who have been brainwashing Aaron since he was 15 years old to buy alcohol. This is the fault also of the supermarkets for placing alcohol next to the fruit and veges.

Somewhat obsessive I say.

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NZ drinking stats

April 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Ministry of Health has just published a survey of NZers and alcohol. The results are interesting, compared to five years ago. I think they show again how exaggerated the moral panic around alcohol has been.

  • The proportion of NZers who have had an alcoholic drink in the last year has dropped from 84% to 80%
  • The proportion of 15 to 17 year olds who had a drink in the last year has dropped from 75% to 59%. This shows how absolutely wrong it would have been to increase the alcohol purchase age to 20. The current age of 18 is leading to fewer young people drinking than in the past.
  • The proportion of adults who have “hazardous” drinking has dropped from 26% to 22% for men and from 11% to 9% for women.
  • The proportion of 18 – 24 year old drinkers who are hazardous drinkers has fallen from 49% to 36%.
  • The more deprived the area someone lives in, the less likely they are to drink, but if they do the more likely they are to be a hazardous drinker. 11% of adults who live in the least deprived areas are hazardous drinkers compared to 18% of adults in the most deprived areas.

These results are very consistent with other surveys in recent years.

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Bar closing time

April 4th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch bars should have a one-way door policy after 1am, with all bars closing by 3am, police say, a day after the city recorded a surge in street-related crime and disorder.

The Christchurch City Council is working on a draft local alcohol policy (LAP) for Christchurch – a provision of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

A preliminary policy was discussed by the planning committee yesterday, with deputations made by the police, medical officer of health, Health Promotion Agency, Hospitality New Zealand, District Licensing Agency, Foodstuffs New Zealand and Progressive Enterprises.

Through the LAP, the council can regulate certain aspects of liquor licensing such as opening hours for licensed premises, controlling the location of licensed premises and making re-entry restrictions to bars early in the morning.

Canterbury district commander, Superintendent Gary Knowles, told the council yesterday the central-city bars should have a one-way door policy after 1am and all bars should shut by 3am.

1 am is way way too early. Hell many people only head into town around midnight.

One way policies may also have unintended consequences. Rather than walk around town and sober up a bit, you’ll stay drinking at the bar you are already at.

Also if a group has split up, it means they can’t reunite.


No UK minimum alcohol price

March 17th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Sources have confirmed that the Coalition will not attempt to implement the Prime Minister’s plan for a 45p per unit minimum price.

Is that all? Labour MPs here were talking $2 a stand drink minimum price!

Mr Cameron had argued that making drinks more expensive would curb problem drinking, while several ministers argued that the minimum price would only serve to penalise responsible drinkers. The minimum price was also opposed by the Treasury, where officials argued that it would reduce tax revenues at a time when the public finances remain strained.

One Treasury source described the Prime Minister’s plan as “a remarkably stupid idea”.

Government insiders suggested the Chancellor is considering using the Budget to impose higher taxes on some drinks and argue that doing so will address problem drinking.

There is an interesting debate about the merits of minimum pricing vs excise taxes. Our current excise tax regime is lopsided and not all alcohol is taxed at the same rate.

A spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “Minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers and treat everyone who is looking for value in their shopping as a binge drinker.”

Yet it is Labour and Green party policy. Beware.

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The alcohol crisis

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

Eric Crampton 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 alcohol 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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A total advertising ban!

February 12th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Martin Johnston at NZ Herald reports:

The liquor industry must be shut out of alcohol policy-making and implementation, to prevent manufacturers from undermining efforts to reduce the harms of alcohol, says an international grouping of public health specialists.

I’ve observed there tend to be two types of public health lobbyists. The zealots tend to regard their work as a holy crusade and the industry they specialise in as the enemy. They get focused more on attacking the industry rather than the merits of specific initiatives.

Do not engage commercial or vested interest groups, or their representatives, in discussion on the development of alcohol policy.

yes the zealots think Governments should not even talk to or engage with businesses that will be impacted by Government decisions. They are saying the only people the Government should listen to are themselves. And you know what – I guarantee you they are all being funded by taxpayers so they can lobby Governments with their own money!

The authors of the statement of concern say voluntary codes were often violated and a complete ban on alcohol promotion was preferable.

Nice to have the agenda out there. This means no happy hours, no Tui billboards, no online Wine retailers, no sports sponsorships, no advertising etc.

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The Alcohol Reform Bill

December 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Alcohol Reform Bill passed its third reading yesterday. There’s actually a lot of significant changes in it, even though the wowsers are wailing that it doesn’t bring in minimum pricing, so a bottle of wine would cost at least $16.

The SOP by Lianne Dalziel was supported by most of Labour, all the Greens and NZ First. So expect the price of a drink to skyrocket under a change of government. There is a glimmer of hope though – Shearer, Mallard, Hipkins, Woods, Cosgrove and Faafoi voted against Dalziel’s minimum pricing amendment.

So what are the major law changes:

  • local alcohol policies can be set determining maximum trading hours in their area and limiting the location of licensed premises. This sensibly recognises that the needs of Wainuiomata may be different to Courtenay Place.
  • stronger rules about the types of stores eligible to sell alcohol and restricting supermarkets and grocery stores to displaying alcohol in a single area.
  • express consent from parents or guardians before supplying alcohol to a minor
  • new liquor licensing criteria, making licences harder to get and easier to lose
  • stronger controls on alcohol advertising and promotion

I think the most important change is that it is now an offence to supply alcohol to minors, without parental consent. Previously it was only an offence to sell it.


Benefits of alcohol

November 29th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Charley Mann at The Press reports:

Those who enjoy a glass or two should ignore the ”badly overstated” warnings about alcohol over the festive season, a University of Canterbury academic says.

The flurry of alcohol warnings ahead of Christmas were overstated and incorrect, said economics lecturer Dr Eric Crampton. ”Nobody warns us about the warnings.”

“And there’s danger in that … since some of the warnings are either false or badly overstated.”


Crampton said health warnings on alcohol focused ”exclusively” on curbing the harm experienced by heavy drinkers but ignored the enjoyment for moderate drinkers. This risked doing more harm than good, Crampton said.

”It is hard to open the paper without finding dire warnings about alcohol’s costs to the country. But how often do we hear that drinkers earn more than non-drinkers?

“Or that light drinkers have lower mortality risk than non-drinkers? Or that light-to-moderate drinking predicts better ageing outcomes?

Fundamentally alcohol is very different to tobacco. Tobacco kills you, even in moderation. Almost everyone who smokes wants to give up smoking. Very few moderate or light drinkers want to give up alcohol.

Hence the focus should be on heavy or binge drinking, not on demonising alcohol overall.

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8 pm closing!

October 25th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett reports:

Andrew Little’s amendment had apparently time-travelled all the way from the 1920s and proposed off-licences shut at 8pm rather than the proposed 10pm.

The explanation for this early “lights out” was such a masterpiece of delicious, pious absurdity that it requires repeating: it was because people buying alcohol any later than 8pm were likely to be already a bit tipsy “and may not have the judgment and self-control necessary to make cogent decisions”.

Good God. The woser factor out in full force. We weak humans need protecting from ourselves because at 8 pm we’re already “tipsy”.

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Drug Foundation Alcohol Bingo

October 24th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Drug Foundation has published a bingo card of “cliched phrases” they say MPs will use to defend the liquor industry.

Firstly I’m disappointed that the NZDF, normally fairly sensible on drug and alcohol issues, is now into denigrating motives of MPs. I expect Doug Selman to rant on about MPs defending the liquor industry, not the NZDF. The fact that MPs disagree with them on an issue, doesn’t mean they are defending the liquor industry. It means they don’t agree with the proposed law will have more benefits than harm.

What is interesting is the list of phrases they include, because I assume that in including them, they think that the proposition is flawed.

  • Unfair to responsible drinkers
  • We’re doing research on this
  • Parental responsibility
  • Education Is the answer

So are NZDF against doing research, against education, against parental responsibility and for punishing responsible drinkers?

I think NZDF do a good job overall, but they should stick to sensible research based advocacy, and avoid stupid stuff like this which may make them feel they are hip or cool, but will have no impact with those they are trying to influence.

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Nutritional information labels for alcohol

October 24th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Waikato Times reports:

Hamilton Labour MP Sue Moroney reckons if young women knew how many calories there were in alcoholic drinks they might think twice before getting drunk.

That’s why she wants nutritional information labels for booze added to the Alcohol Reform Bill.

I understand health groups have said that full nutritional information on alcohol may actually encourage people to drink more as it is basically zero fat etc. However I do think just having a calorie count of alcohol could be beneficial – and not just for young women!

However, her National counterpart, Tim Macindoe, said such amendments were not as important as restricting the supply and marketing of alcohol.

Perhaps, but it is not a case of choosing one or the other. Put it like this – is there a good argument against including calorie information on alcohol, considering almost all other food and drink has it?

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The marathon alcohol debate

October 23rd, 2012 at 1:10 pm by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

MPs are set to embark on a long and laboured debate to pass what critics have labelled the ”alcohol non-reform” bill.

An overhaul of liquor laws is expected back in Parliament today for its committee stage – the most detailed debate of any bill.

Some have tipped the bill could carry on being debated at the committee stage for some weeks, with about 20 amendments to be thrashed out by MPs.

The length of the debate is more about how many parts the bill has, not how many amendments have been put forward. However amendments can take a wee while to vote on and there are not 20 amendments but 20 SOPs, and each SOP can have multiple amendments.

There are 10 parts to the Alcohol Reform Bill, which means 11 debates of probably two hours each. Each vote on an amendment takes around a minute of whips case the votes but will take much longer if they do a personal vote on each amendment. MPs can give their proxies to the whips to vote on each amendment but with Labour allowing a free vote on every amendment, someone may ask the Speaker for a personal vote on each amendment.

Among the amendments proposed by Labour MPs is a ban on liquor sales from off-licences after 8pm and a minimum pricing regime.

Jesus Christ – 8 pm? Let’s bring back 6 o’clock closing also. So if you go to the supermarket at 8.30 pm to do your weekly groceries, you wouldn’t be able to buy a bottle of wine. I’ll look forward to seeing who votes for that stupidity.

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Now they want to regulate our drinking glasses

October 5th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

UK researchers have studied the shape of drinking glasses. Their conclusion is:

Our data indicate that the shape of a drinking glass influences the rate of drinking of an alcoholic beverage, but not a non-alcoholic beverage. Specifically, alcoholic beverages were consumed more slowly from a straight glass than a curved glass when a full glass was presented.

Naturally we need to be protected from ourselves, so they recommend legislators look at regulating drinking glasses. First they complain:

Other restrictions on availability, such as increased drinking age, reduced hours and days when alcohol may be purchased, and reduced number, density and type of alcohol outlet, have also been shown to reduce consumption levels [1]. Unfortunately, despite evidence for the effectiveness of these alcohol control measures and apparent public support for implementation targeted controls [7], most governments have been unwilling to adopt many or all of them [8].

That’s because not all alcohol consumption is bad.

Anyway they come up with a new regulatory idea:

There may be other potentially modifiable factors which may influence alcohol consumption and drinking rate. These might  include marketing signals (i.e., branding), and vehicles for these signals such as the glasses from which beverages are consumed.

So they’re effectively saying Governments could regulate the design of glasses, banning curved glasses as people drink more quickly from them!

What we’re seeing over time is all the measures that have been implemented or proposed for tobacco, getting extended to alcohol and then fast food.


Most stupid idea this year

September 20th, 2012 at 2:48 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

There are moves underway to clean up the Wellington Sevens, now that it’s an Olympic sport.

The Wellington leg of the international tournament has gained a reputation as being a non-stop party, with dozens of arrests often taking place for drunken behaviour.

General manager Steve Walters says they’ve been surveying the rugby community as to whether they think limiting alcohol, or introducing a ‘dry zone’ for part of the first day, is a good idea.

An alcohol free Sevens – yeah right. All that would happen is no one would buy tickets for the actual games, still dress up in costumes, get drunk in town and watch it on screens at the bars.

If they have an alcohol free zone at the Sevens, they won’t need more than 20 seats or so.

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A sad death

September 1st, 2012 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Michael Lafou was supposed to be hanging out with his mates playing computer games, but instead the teenager died cold and alone.

The 16-year-old Naenae College pupil sat near the Hutt River with friends and drank a concoction of booze – including straight bourbon, beer and RTDs – before his body was found on the water’s edge early on Wednesday, police have revealed.

They believe heavy alcohol consumption and the cold weather overnight may have contributed to his death.

His death came as MPs voted against raising the drinking age to 20 – a move that disappointed many in the health sector who deal with the consequences of grossly intoxicated teenagers.

He was 16, not 18 or 19. An age change would not have changed this sad outcome.

The death highlighted the dangers of supplying people under 18 with alcohol, Mr Hill said. “This is the harsh consequences of young people drinking.”

Absolutely. We need a culture change that you do not supply alcohol to those unable to purchase it legally. And the rest of the Alcohol Reform Bill changes the law to make it illegal for someone like Michael to be supplied alcohol without parental consent.

Bars and pubs were not at fault, and few liquor stores had been caught selling to underage people. Adults with access to alcohol were largely to blame.

Indeed. I hope they do find out who did supply the alcohol.


The alcohol age ballot

August 30th, 2012 at 5:57 pm by David Farrar

The results of the first ballot was 18/18 had the most but not 50% and split the least so this means a final ballot of 18/18 and 20/20. Results soon.

Yes 18 won with 69 votes. Well done Keep it 18 and especially Moana Mackey and Nikki Kaye for a great result!

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10 reasons why making it illegal for 18 and 19 year olds to purchase alcohol is the wrong thing to do

August 28th, 2012 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

1 – A split age will encourage more supply to minors

One of the most important changes proposed in the Alcohol Reform Act is to make it an offence to supply alcohol to minors without parental permission. I support this new law, as a major flaw in the current law is that (for example) it is currently legal for any adult to supply beer, wine or even spirits to a 14 year old.

I believe we need both a law change and a culture change where it is illegal and “uncool” to supply alcohol without parental permission to those not able to legally purchase it for themselves – just as over the past few decades it has become “uncool” to drink and drive.

But increasing the purchase age to 20 for off licenses, will work against achieving a culture of not supplying alcohol to those who can not purchase alcohol for themselves. 18 and 19 year olds are legally not minors and hence the new law making it an offence to supply alcohol to minors without parental consent will not apply to them. What this means is that it will be legal for a 20 year old to supply alcohol to a 19 year old (who can not legally purchase it), but illegal to supply it to an 17 year old. This will be confusing and work against achieving a culture where no one supplies alcohol to those unable to purchase it for themselves, without parental consent.

The only way to achieve a culture of non-supply is to have the purchase age the same as the age at which a minor becomes an adult – which is 18. That will be consistent and maximise the chance of the new non-supply law being respected. A purchase age of 20 will encourage a culture of supplying to those under the purchase age. This works directly against the other reforms in the Alcohol Reform Bill to prevent supply to minors.

2 – Fewer youth are drinking now than when the purchase age was 20

ALAC’s annual alcohol monitor survey shows that in 1997 80% of 14 to 18 year olds were drinkers. The latest 2010 survey shows only 32% of 12 to 17 year olds are drinkers. This is a massive drop.

The age ranges have not been entirely consistent over the years, but a breakdown of the 2010 research shows that only 53% of 15 to 17 year olds are drinkers – still a massive reduction from 80% in 1997.

The prevalence of youth drinking is dropping, not increasing. In 2006 ALAC research found 53% of 12 to 17 year olds were drinkers, and amongst the same age group it is 32% in 2010. That is a relative 40% drop in the youth drinking prevalence rate since 2006.

Many people have said that the drop in the purchase age in 1999 has led to more under 18 year olds drinking. This is clearly false on the ALAC research, and in fact the opposite has happened.

Also the age at which young people start drinking has been increasing. In 2006, 35% of young drinkers started before they turned 14. In 2010, it was just 21%.

The ALAC research is not the only survey. Auckland University’s Adolescent Health Research Group did a survey of around 10,000 secondary school students in 2000 and again in 2007.  Their reports are here. The prevalance of secondary school students who have drunk alcohol in 2000 and 2007 they found to drop from 70% to 61%.  Two highly reputable independent pieces of research have both found that fewer young New Zealanders are drinking than in the past.

3 – Most alcohol is supplied by parents or family members

60% of youth moderate and binge drinkers say their last drink was at home, or a relative’s home. Only 27% say they were at a friend’s house. Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds for allegedly being the source of alcohol to under age drinkers, is not bourne out by the facts.

The Auckland University survey found only 20% of secondary school students had alcohol supplied by an adult  who is not their parents – a drop from 25% in 2000. Blaming adult 18 and 19 year olds on school age students drinking is unfair and untrue.

4 – A split 18/20 age will increase risks for young women

The proposed split age of 18 for off-licenses and 20 for on-licenses (while preferred to a 20/20 age) will push 18 and 19 year olds who wish to have a drink to go into town, rather than have a drink at home. Far more violence and crime occurs in town, than at people’s homes. 18 and 19 year old women especially will be at risk of greater sexual assaults, if they are prevented from being able to legally purchase alcohol to drink in the safety of their own home.

5 – 18 is the age of majority

18 and 19 year old men and women are required to register on the electoral roll, and can stand for election to Parliament or local authorities.

The MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, was elected to the Manukau City Council at the age of 18. He did a sufficiently good job to be re-elected in 2007, and then elected to the new Auckland Council in 2010, and to the House of Representatives in 2011.

It seems absurd that a young adult such as Jami-Lee could serve on the Manukau City Council, actually help determine and vote on local alcohol policies for the city, yet be legislatively banned from being able to buy a bottle of wine at a supermarket on the way home from a Council meeting.

Can an MP justify voting in favour on Wednesday in favour of 16 year old gay and lesbian couples being able to get married at 16, yet vote on Thursday against them being able to purchase alcohol until they are 20?

6 – Increasing the purchase age will encourage disrespect for the law

It is naïve to think that 18 and 19 year olds who are working or studying will not purchase or acquire alcohol. Of course they will. In fact it will be legal for others to acquire it for them, which will make the law somewhat farcical. Under the split age proposal, it will be illegal to sell alcohol to an 18 or 19 year old, but legal to supply it to them for free!

Laws which are widely broken or worked around, lower overall respect for the law. The United States has a higher purchase age than New Zealand, and this law is so widely broken that even Jenna and Barbara Bush broke the law – despite their father being President of the United States.

7 – There is no evidence that a split age will work

Even the groups that support increasing the purchase age to 20 say that there is no evidence that a split age will work in reducing alcohol related harm. It will simply send a confusing mixed message about whether or not 18 and 19 year olds can purchase alcohol.

No other country in the world has a split purchase age, It is an untested experiment, with no scientific basis to it. It sends out a contradictory message on the appropriate age to purchase alcohol.

8 – A split age will discriminate against rural areas

Banning 18 and 19 year olds from being able to purchase alcohol in off-licenses will have a greater impact on those in rural areas. On-licenses are common in urban areas, but many of those who live in rural areas do not have a nearby on-license. Hence this means that an effective different purchase age will apply in urban and rural New Zealand.

9 – It’s about the culture

An increase in the purchase age does nothing to address the real issue of the New Zealand drinking culture. You can’t get a change in the culture by making it illegal for a 19 year old to buy a bottle of wine. The culture change comes about by engaging with drinkers, and making unsafe drinking behaviour unattractive.

Professor Doug Sellman was quoted in this week’s Sunday Star-Times as saying “The fact is that less than 10 per cent of the 700,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand are under 20″.  Alcohol issues in New Zealand need a culture change across the board. Scapegoating 18 and 19 year olds for the problems caused by heavy drinkers is unfair – especially as fewer than 10% of the heavy drinkers are youth.

10 – Drink Driving

Youth drink driving has been dropping massively in the last few years. It dropped by just over 50% from 2007 to 2011 amongst under 17 year olds, and in the last year dropped 52% amongst all teenagers.

The split age proposal may encourage more drink driving amongst teenagers. 18 and 19 year olds will not be able to purchase alcohol to drink at home. They will only be able to purchase alcohol by going into an on-license. This is highly likely to lead to more teenagers then driving home after they have been drinking – especially in more rural areas.

Please do the right thing and vote to keep the purchase age at 18.

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The cost of alcohol

August 26th, 2012 at 11:12 am by David Farrar

Eric Crampton inserts some facts in a Press op-ed:

I do not particularly care what the jury decides on who is or is not a wowser. But I work with and care about the numbers around alcohol policy. And the impression most readers would get from the latest reporting in The Press is a bit at odds with, well, reality.

Let us begin perhaps with Jennie Connor’s citing of “a Canadian study” on the effects of minimum pricing. Can a 10 per cent increase in the minimum price of alcohol really reduce total alcohol consumption by 16 per cent? No. …

Across-the-board increases in the minimum price of alcohol have far smaller effects: a 10 per cent price increase reduces aggregate consumption by only about 3.4 per cent, as is made reasonably clear in Auld’s paper.

But the bigger mis-use of numbers follows:

I was a bit more surprised to read of the new commissioned BERL report on the health costs of alcohol in Canterbury. …

BERL here replicated work done in Australia by Collins and Lapsley (2008). But where Collins and Lapsley added up all the costs imposed by those disorders where alcohol makes things worse and subtracted from that total all the cost savings from those disorders where alcohol reduces costs, BERL simply erased any beneficial effects of alcohol for disorders including ischaemic heart disease, cholelithiasis, heart failure, stroke and hypertension. …

I received the paper Wednesday courtesy of the CDHB. And BERL, at footnote 14, reports they’ve done the same thing again: “The Collins and Lapsley fractions indicate some alcohol use may be beneficial for some conditions. We concentrate on harmful drug use, and assume zero fractions for such conditions.”

So their measure of the costs of alcohol to the Canterbury health system relies on an assumption that there can be no health benefits from alcohol – an assumption that runs contrary to the weight of international evidence. Assuming one’s conclusions is hardly proper method.

To put it more bluntly the BERL paper is useless as a public policy tool.  Measuring harm without measuring benefits is something zealots do, but we expect better in scientific papers.

Crampton concludes:

How often do you read that problem drinking among 15-24 year olds was no different in 2006/2007 than in 1996/1997 before the change in the alcohol purchase age?

Or that per capita alcohol consumption is down substantially since 1991? Othat light drinkers have about a 14%reduction in their chance of dying from any cause than people who never drink, correcting for the host of other health-related behaviours that are usually given as reasons for ignoring the health benefits of moderate drinking?

Be skeptical of the moral crisis around alcohol.

Amazing to see the comments at The Press attacking Eric personally or attacking things he never said. Very few able to engage on the actual issue.

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