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.

Some sense from the Government on alcohol

April 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

John Key says he would be “extremely surprised” if a far-reaching ban on alcohol sponsorship and advertising went ahead. 

A ministerial forum on alcohol advertising and sponsorship has put forward a raft of recommendations – including a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sports teams and events.

Organisers of major Marlborough events that rely on sponsorship from the wine industry, including the Forrest GrapeRide and Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon, have said their future would be threatened if the recommendations were implemented. 

That would be a great outcome – a huge drop in the number of sporting events in NZ.

In response to a question by Kent Winstanley during a meeting of young professionals in Blenheim on Friday, Key said the proposal was at an early stage.

“I’d be extremely surprised if it progresses very far.

“We could turn around tomorrow and say it’s illegal for wineries to sponsor the local rugby team and things like that … .

“The problem you’ve got is, where is the money going to come from for those organisations?” 

It was “nonsense” to say that government would help to make up the shortfall, Key said. 

“The government makes that case all the time and it doesn’t happen.” 

As well as removing alcohol sponsorship from sports, the recommendations call for alcohol sponsorship to be removed from cultural and music events where at least 10 per cent of those taking part are under 18. 

Alcohol advertising would be banned, including on social media, where 10 per cent or more of the audience are aged under 18. 

Key questioned how effective the measures would be.

“Does it really impact that much at the margins in terms of people drinking responsibly?

Great to hear the PM so skeptical. We don’t want a wowser Government.

“I think there’s a strong argument for us to continue to educate youngsters about drinking responsibly, but ultimately the fact that Villa Maria might want to be getting its brand name out there, or Cloudy Bay, or whoever – well good on them.

“I’m going to be pretty opposed to dramatic changes there.” 

Again, good to hear.

Pay off your student loan at the pub

April 12th, 2015 at 9:39 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

A controversial loyalty card has been launched that offers to pay a chunk of a student’s bar tab off their student loan.

The Feejoa card sees promoters pay up to 5 per cent of the amount users spend at participating businesses off their student loans. The more they spend, the more is paid off the loan.

Anyone can use the card and those without student loans can donate the discount to someone with one.

Eight bars and the Warehouse Stationery chain have signed up to the scheme and promoters want to expand to other retailers in a bid to help pay off student loans.

The person who came up with this idea is an evil genius. Pay off your student loan by going to the pub. The more you drink, the more you pay off!!

Of course it ignores the opportunity cost – that if you don’t go to the pub at all, you can pay your loan off faster. But why would you? There’s no interest on it.

I can see students and graduates flocking to this.

Community Alcohol and Drug Services regional manager Robert Steenhuisen said the card was “an incentive to consume more”, which went against public health initiatives aiming for moderate drinking.

Yeah students are already known for their modest drinking habits.

Penalising shoppers

March 23rd, 2015 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders wanting an alcoholic nightcap will have to stock up earlier or go clubbing if a recommendation for supermarkets and bottle stores to stop selling liquor at 9pm wins council approval.

A council hearings panel is recommending that the closing time for off-licence alcohol sales be brought forward by two hours from 11pm – and trading not start again until 9am the next day.

That compares with an existing national “default” opening time of 7am, which Retail NZ and its supermarket members have been lobbying hard to retain.


This is an incredibly stupid decision, if they make it.

The vast majority of people in supermarkets buying alcohol before 9 am or after 9 pm are not buying it to consumer that night. They’re mums and dads or shift workers who don’t have time to do shop during the day, so are doing their weekly shopping early in the morning or late evening, and are just buying some wine or beer for consumption at a later time.

This proposed change will massively inconvenience those families, and have almost no impact on alcohol related harm. Those wanting alcohol that night will simply buy it before 9 pm.

And what harm are they trying to solve by not allowing wine sales in supermarkets at 8.00 am?

Nine litres of wine???

March 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reported:

A teenager who police said drank nine litres of wine was drinking at home before being found unconscious at a South Auckland mall last night.

I doubt that greatly. I can’t imagine anyone could drink nine litres of wine in a sitting.

That’s 12 bottles of 9,000 mls. Assume 14% alcohol content and multiply by 0.78 for density and that is around one litre of pure enthanol.

If the teenager weighed 80 kgs then a lethal dose is 300 to 500 mls of alcohol. A litre would almost beyond doubt be fatal.

So I think there is a large degree of exaggeration in the claim.

Pregnant woman refused a glass of wine

March 19th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A heavily pregnant woman is flabbergasted at being refused a single glass of sparkling wine on her wedding anniversary last night at an Auckland restaurant.

Nichola Hayes and her husband Michael were looking forward to a rare night out just weeks before she is due to give birth to the couple’s second child.

They chose Mac’s Brewbar at the Nuffield Street Trading Company in Newmarket where Mrs Hayes asked for a glass of wine with pizza while her husband opted for beer.

But Mrs Hayes was “completely flabbergasted and embarrassed” when a waitress denied her service on the basis of her pregnancy.

A bar has a right to decide who they serve alcohol to. And a customer has a right to not go to a bar that will try and make decisions on their behalf.

It does seem the bar staff were overly zealous. While no level of alcohol is entirely safe, a single wine is unlikely to have an impact. The question is whether the decision should be the mother’s, or the bar staff.

Big drop in alcohol available for consumption

February 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The latest data from Stats NZ is interesting.

  • Volume of alcoholic drinks available for consumption down 10 million litres or 2%
  • Beer volume down 6.5 million litres
  • RTDs down 4.5 million litres or 7%
  • The amount of pure alcohol per adult has dropped from 9.6 litres in 2010 to 9.1 litres in 2014

So again the moral panic over how we’re drinking and abusing more alcohol is not supported by the data.

Latest alcohol use research

February 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Ministry of Health has released its survey of alcohol use in 2012/13. Now bear in mind we’ve had years of people claiming that things are getting worse in NZ and we need to ban some alcoholic products, ban advertising, ban sponsorship, close bars earlier and make it harder to buy a bottle of wine at the supermarket.

So what does this research find has been the trend in the last five years (since 2007/08):

  • A 3% drop from 85% to 82% in the number of adults who drink
  • A 2% drop from 32% to 30% in the number of adults who say they drank before age 15
  • A 22% drop in spirits consumers from 49% of adults to 27%
  • A 17% drop in wine consumers from 69% of adults to 52%
  • A 7% drop in beer consumers from 66% to 59%
  • A 5% drop in RTD consumers from 22% to 17%
  • A trend of more moderate drinking with high frequency down from 29% to 28% and low frequency up from 39% to 42%
  • A drop in those getting intoxicated from 59% to 57%
  • A drop in alcohol caused self harm from 5.5% to 4.1%
  • A drop in alcohol adversely affecting home life from 8.5% to 6.1%

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 is numerous indicators is the trend is positive.

Drink walking also dangerous

February 2nd, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A third of New Zealand pedestrians killed on the roads in the five years to 2013 were drunk, a new report says.

Ministry of Transport data on pedestrian crashes with vehicles between 2009 and 2013 showed the leading cause of pedestrian-fault crashes was “visible intoxication”, followed by “crossing heedless of traffic”.

In 49 fatalities the pedestrian was intoxicated, representing 30 per cent of all pedestrian fatalities.

How long until the Government makes it an offence to walk and be over a certain alcohol limit?

Meg Christie, convener of pedestrian advocacy group Living Streets Otautahi, said new liquor laws, including the drink driving limit falling from 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath to 250mcg, meant “vulnerable” people were walking.

“People are leaving the car at home, which is great, but means they are travelling in a vulnerable state to the bus stop or on the way home,” she said.

I guess drunk walking only endangers themselves, unlike drunk driving which endangers others.

Dom Post opposes alcohol sponsorship ban

December 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Public health researchers use tobacco as a model for alcohol reform. But the comparison is not fair. Alcohol in small amounts is healthy. For most people, it is not especially addictive. There is no similar risk that a few drinks at a young age mean a lifetime chained to the habit.

That is the key difference.

An advertising ban is a heavy-handed move that would cut off a major funding stream for sports teams and suppress diversity in a market that has shown plenty of it recently. (Consider the craft beer explosion, not exactly associated with problem drinking.)

You ban advertising and sponsorship, and you effectively ban new products.

To the extent that regulations can help, they should be carefully targeted at drunkenness and young people. Banning obscene boozing competitions, as the Government did in 2012, justified itself. Curtailing bar hours, as the police are pushing for in Wellington, also has merit. Scrubbing sponsors’ logos from games mostly watched by adults seems like overdoing it.

May the Government drown the report in a vat of craft beer.

The Press and Herald editorials are also sceptical or hostile to the recommendations.

Alcohol Sponsorship and Advertising Recommendations

December 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Ministerial Forum on Alcohol and Advertising and Sponsorship has made 14 recommendations to the Government:

  1. Ban alcohol sponsorship of all streamed and broadcast sports
  2. Ban alcohol sponsorship of sports [long-term]
  3. Ban alcohol sponsorship (naming rights) at all venues
  4. Ban alcohol sponsorship of cultural and music events where 10% or more of participants and
    audiences are younger than 18
  5. Introduce a sponsorship replacement funding programme
  6. Introduce a targeted programme to reduce reliance on alcohol sponsorship funding
  7. Ban alcohol advertising during streamed and broadcast sporting events
  8. Ban alcohol advertising where 10% or more of the audience is younger than 18
  9. Further restrict the hours for alcohol advertising on broadcast media
  10. Continue to offset remaining alcohol advertising by funding positive messaging across all media
  11. Introduce additional restrictions on external advertising on licensed venues and outlets
  12. Establish an independent authority to monitor and initiate complaints about alcohol advertising and
  13. Establish a mechanism to identify and act on serious or persistent breaches of advertising standards
  14. Establish a multi-stakeholder committee to periodically review and assess Advertising Standards
    Complaints Board decisions and pre-vetted advertising

Recommendations 1, 2, 3 and 7 would basically cripple most sports in NZ.

Recommendations 4 and 8 may have merit, as alcohol should not be promoted to under 18s

Recommendations 5, 6 and 10 means increases taxes and have taxes spent on sponsoring sports

Recommendation 9 could also have merit, in that advertising should occur later at night

Recommendation 11 could mean anything

Recommendations 12 to 14 look like the Government establishing its own advertising regulator, effectively abolishing the self-regulatory model.

All in all pretty depressing. On a related note, an article from Patrick Basham on plain packaging:

Two years after its implementation, plain packaging’s impact upon smoking and the illicit cigarette trade remains the subject of vigorous debate. No longer debatable, however, is plain packaging’s negative affect upon the alcohol industry and other non-tobacco sectors of the Australian economy.

The unintended effects of plain packaging have the potential to vastly outweigh the legislation’s intended public health benefits, real or imagined. In fact, Australia’s imposition of plain packaging on tobacco opened a Pandora’s Box of potential trade costs with the nation’s alcohol sector set to become the first example of the policy’s collateral damage.

Indonesian farmers recently rallied in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in support of their government’s targeting of Australian alcohol. The Indonesian trade ministry is preparing to mandate the plain packaging of alcohol products, including Australian wine, with the respective labelling devoted to warnings of the adverse health consequences associated with alcohol consumption.

Providing political support for these plans are Indonesian business lobbyists seeking to protect their domestic market from foreign competition, as well as global and domestic public health NGOs who support plain packaging on all manner of ‘unhealthy’ consumer products, including alcohol and tobacco.

Such support would not have mattered to the Indonesian government if Australia had not opted for plain packaging in late 2011. But, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government could not resist the temptation to become the global ‘leader’ in tobacco control policy. Consequently, Australia is now embroiled in a messy trade dispute that may spill over into a costly trade war.

Eventually the demand for plain packaging will extend to drinks and to food. It’s a bad precedent.