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.

Let’s ban bottle openers!

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

Stuff reports:

Christ’s College is perpetuating New Zealand’s heavy drinking culture by giving senior pupils a bottle-opener keyring at the school ball, an alcohol reform campaigner says.

The keyring, inscribed with “CC Ball 2014”, was given to the boys, mostly aged 17 or 18, at the ball on Saturday night. Girls were given lip balm.

National Addiction Centre director Professor Doug Sellman said the school was facilitating “the normalisation and glamourisation of heavy drinking” by presenting a collectable bottle opener.

“For the bottle opener to also be a keyring, which directly promotes a permissive attitude towards drink driving, raises the stakes of inappropriateness to top-shelf,” he said.

Christ’s College headmaster Simon Leese defended the gift, saying it was “almost laughable” someone would make an issue of it.

“Anybody can go into Briscoes, and anywhere else, and buy a bottle opener at any age. Frankly, this is a nonsense line of inquiry.”

I agree. I also point out that youth drinking rates have been falling for many years.

I’m fine with Police being undercover in bars

August 27th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Undercover police officers drank in Dunedin bars as part of an operation targeting liquor licensing offences.

While police said the inaugural operation was a success — with most bars found compliant — the Hospitality Association slammed the move as “creepy”.

Two Central Otago-based police officers — in their mid-20s — visited city bars on Saturday night to check compliance with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. …

The undercover officers visited six bars in total, with some bars visited twice.

He confirmed those officers were allowed to drink while on duty.

“There is case law that backs up if someone is in a licensed premises, then one drink an hour is appropriate … otherwise you would stand out.”

The behaviour of licensees and staff was largely found to be compliant. One Octagon bar was given a written warning, after serving alcohol to an intoxicated patron at 3.40am on Sunday.

I’m fine with this. Bars shouldn’t serve people who are clearly intoxicated. The only reliable way to check on this is with undercover officers, so I have no problems with this.

Is Labour going to whack up alcohol price and the purchase age?

August 14th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Labour’s policy says:

implementing the recommendations from the Law Commission Report on Alcohol

The Law Commission recommended

  • Increasing the purchase age to 20
  • A 50% increase in the excise tax on alcohol

So one can only presume that Labour is committed to moving the purchase age back to 20, and to a 50% tax hike on beer, wine and spirits. I thought this deserved some publicity.

Party Police want no new bars in Auckland for six years!

August 1st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I hate that the Police have become the wowsers of New Zealand. Well, not quite. They all enjoy a drink themselves, but advocate nanny state for everyone else.

Radio NZ reports:

The police are proposing a six-year ban on any new bars and bottle stores in central Auckland and other regional hot-spots.

Why not just go back to prohibition also.

As a minimum, police want a freeze on the number of liquor licences in some areas. But they would rather have a sinking lid policy, under which no new licences are given even if other bars or shops close down.

Which will probably just lead to more drinking in cars, parks and homes.

The benefits of booze

July 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matt Heath writes in the NZ Herald:

A terrible injustice has befallen commercial radio. A change in the law has stopped us giving away alcohol on air.

Campaigners have convinced the Government that a sniff of free booze will instantly turn Kiwis into alcoholics and criminals. I’m not so sure.

Like most Kiwis I enjoy a drink. In fact, I love a drink. I’m having a beer as I write this. But I am not an alcoholic and I don’t have a drinking problem. My drinking is more like a hobby. Sadly, like all pastimes, work and family commitments keep me away from it. …

Anti-alcohol campaigners turn a blind eye to the good booze does in the community. You only have to go to a restaurant to hear the happiness it brings. People laughing and enjoying each other’s company. You can’t put these good people in the same boat as a bastard who beats his family.

Indeed they do often overlook the immense enjoyment most adults get from alcohol.

Campaigners use the terribly behaved to beat up on the slightly naughty. They use the sick to hassle the healthy; their bad experiences to limit the good experiences of others. If the alcohol debate was a weather report then light breezes would be the same as hurricanes, spring showers would become weather bombs and Jim Hickey would lose his job.

The reality is there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting sauced. No crime in catching a taxi home because you’ve had too many. Nearly every newsreader, reporter, politician and police officer has.

There is no shame in drinking, dancing, singing and enjoying the company of other humans.

Sure you could do all those things without alcohol. But thankfully we live in a country where we don’t have to.

Well not yet, but the wowsers are doing their best.

The only thing I would change is to have an app on your smartphone that won’t allow you to text or call people if your breath alcohol is over a certain level. That would have saved me a lot of grief in the last month!

But what of the social cost? Domestic violence, drunk drivers, burglary, assault, couch burning and firetrucking. I’m not doing any of those things. I bet you aren’t either.

I might slur “you’re my best mate” and turn the music up till it distorts. But I never stab people or rob their houses. Bad behaviour is a dickhead problem not a booze problem.

Let’s celebrate the good alcohol does in the community. The new guy who becomes fast friends over work drinks. The shy couple who gain the courage to talk to each other for the first time. The diplomats who seal a deal for the country at the bar after a conference. The victorious sports team singing the national anthem after everyone has gone home.

Celebrating booze – I love it.

An alcohol report that got little publicity

May 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The World Health Organisation has just released its 2014 report on alcohol and health. It seems to have had almost no publicity here – possibly because it doesn’t support the claims of certain groups that NZ alcohol stats are really bad on a world scale. Some extracts you may not see elsewhere:

  • Far from there being a catastrophic rise in alcohol abuse in New Zealand there has been a real reduction in drinking habits in the last 30 years.   There was a sharp increase in total alcohol consumption per capita from 1970 through the early 1980s, then a sharp drop from 1985 through the late 1990s, and a slight upward trend since then.  So things are not worse than they have ever been…in fact they are a lot better.
  • The amount consumed per drinker, New Zealand ranks around 96th (13.7 litres of pure alcohol per capita).  This ranks us slightly higher than France (at 12.9 litres) and slightly lower than the UK (at 13.8 litres).  So on average, we are a nation of fairly moderate drinkers.
  • We are constantly told that we have a “binge drinking” culture in New Zealand, but our rates of prevalence of heavy episodic drinking (classified as more than 6 standard drinks on at least one occasion in the past 30 days) is actually very low by global standards.  The prevalence rate of heavy drinking for New Zealand was 5.6%.  This is more than half that of Australia (13.6%), more than a quarter that of Canada (23.1%), and more than a sixth that of the United Kingdom (33.4%). So when you hear the claim we have 800,000 hazardous drinkers, it is quite a gross exaggeration (as the scare mongers here use a different definition).

Of course there are problems caused by alcohol abuse in New Zealand, and these should be mitigated if it can be done in a way where the benefits exceed the costs. But the narrative that NZ has an awful drinking problem, and it is much worse than in the past – is not true.

Nanny Auckland

May 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Auckland risks becoming a “nanny city” compared to party-friendly Wellington if a proposal to cut bar hours is adopted, a city councillor has warned.

Hot on the heels of new national 4am closing hours for bars, the Auckland Council wants to close Auckland pubs and clubs even earlier – at 3am in the city and Ponsonby, and 1am everywhere else.

Bars would not be able to sell shooters, shots or many cocktails after midnight throughout most of the city and not after 1am in city and Ponsonby bars.

The council’s proposed local alcohol policy, set to be approved for public consultation tomorrow, also specifies more restrictive hours for off-licences by limiting alcohol sales to not before 9am and not after 10pm.

National laws that began in December 2013 set off-licence hours from 7am to 11pm.

Auckland city councillor Cameron Brewer lashed out at the proposals and said Wellington would be the biggest winner from the proposed policy.

“This policy will make a joke of council’s latest marketing campaign that promotes Auckland as ‘the show that never stops’.”

Auckland has also made the same mistake as many other Councils and not distingished between types of off-licenses.  There’s a difference between people going into a bottle store to buy more spirits for a party and people wanting to buy a bottle of wine at the same time as they are doing their weekly groceries shopping. The proposed Auckland policy will inconvenience many responsible shoppers and drinkers – while not actually reducing alcohol abuse. A more targeted policy could reduce the inconvenience with no trade off in terms of reducing alcohol abuse.

Brewer said Auckland’s “puritan” laws had taken the new powers “to the extreme”. Events like champagne breakfasts for the Rugby World Cup or Commonwealth Games would become illegal with new minimum opening hours of 9am, he said.

Brewer said the limiting of off-licence hours would annoy a lot of people.

“Wine and beer will be roped off like we used to have in the old days when you couldn’t buy alcohol from supermarkets on Sundays. It’s ‘back to the future’ stuff,” he said.

“Mum and dad shoppers won’t be able to buy wine or beer with their weekly groceries before 9am and after 10pm.

“It makes no sense, particularly the morning ban . . . These grocery shoppers are not the problem.”


But councillor George Wood, who supported the proposal, said on-licence operators would be able to apply for extensions after a 12-month trial.

George is of course a former Police commander, and the Police view is that nothing good ever happens at 3 am. That’s an appalling view. I’ve been in town many times after 3 am with friends – and none of us have ever caused problems.

Wood said the Wellington City Council proposed 3am in its draft but 5am was adopted after consultation.

So will the Auckland Council listen, like Wellington did?

Crampton on alcohol prices

April 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Eric Crampton blogs:

Imagine that hazardous drinkers really really cared about the price of alcohol. If you increased the price of alcohol just a little bit, they’d stop drinking harmfully. Imagine further that moderate drinkers didn’t respond very much to prices: what does it matter to the rich Chardonnay-sipping set if a bottle is $8 or $40? If that were the true state of the world, we would have a very simple solution to alcohol problems: hike excise taxes. Harmful drinkers would stop drinking and would stop doing alcohol-related harmful things; moderate drinkers would pay more but that would just be tax revenue for the government. Since they wouldn’t change their consumption by very much, deadweight costs would be pretty small relative to the harms avoided. Yay taxes!

But is the assumption that heavy drinkers are more price response true?

Unfortunately, the world don’t quite look like that. Our best evidence on it remains Wagenaar’s metastudyshowing that heavy drinkers respond to a 10% price hike by reducing consumption by 2.8%; average consumption drops by 4.4% with the same price increase. Moderate drinkers respond more to price increases than do heavy drinkers.

The answer is no.

Enter the NZ Government report on excise and minimum pricing. Fortunately, the Minister has more sense than her Ministry and hasn’t gone ahead with minimum pricing; hopefully, she’s not looking at excise. What’s the problem with the report? They started by assuming that heavy drinkers are more responsive to prices than are moderate drinkers.

So why would you assume something that is not backed by the evidence?

And they know it’s wrong. Here, at Table 5, they show the general consensus of the international literature: heavy drinkers don’t respond to prices nearly as strongly as do moderate drinkers. …

Bottom line: heavy drinkers are roughly half as responsive to prices as are moderate drinkers. That’s page 20. And they cite Byrnes accurately at page 21.

So they know their assumptions are wrong, yet they still used them?

But then what do they go and do? They started by trying to get SHORE to estimate NZ elasticities, but something went wrong there: the elasticities were completely out of whack with reality. Reading between the lines at page 25, it looks like SHORE was using the increase in purchases of products on special at supermarkets as part of its price elasticity estimation, and that just ain’t right. If you switch brands because something’s on special and buy more of it than you otherwise would have, that isn’t the same effect as you’d expect for across-the-board price changes you get with excise or minimum pricing.

Way different things. I might buy more Coke rather than Pepsi when Coke is on sale. But that doesn’t mean if the price of both Coke and Pepsi increases that I’ll buy less overall.

The report agrees the NZ figures are wrong:

“It was decided that the significant reductions in consumption estimated using NZ elasticity estimates are not a realistic representation of what is likely to happen in reality and are contrary to all international evidence of the responsiveness of alcohol consumers to changes in price.”

Yet …

Rather than discard the completely nuts NZ numbers, they let those figures stand and added alternative numbers as robustness checks. Those big headline estimates you’ve been seeing in the papers about just how awesome excise is? They’re based on the numbers that, according to the report, “are not a realistic representation in reality and are contrary to all international evidence of the responsiveness of alcohol consumers to changes in price.

Example? A 133% excise hike means about a 40% increase in the cost of low-priced beer, a 44% increase in the cost of low-priced wine, a 45% increase in the cost of low-priced RTDs, and a 103% increase in the price of low-cost spirits. The heavy drinkers SHORE estimated a 61% reduction in harmful consumers’ consumption with that tax hike. So they’re saying that harmful consumers are more than unit elastic. That’s just not right.

I’m glad we have someone who can analyse these reports, and point out the errors in them. we run the risk of flawed decisions being made on the basis of flawed analysis.

No minimum price for alcohol

April 25th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Judith Collins announced:

Justice Minister Judith Collins has received the Ministry of Justice report, The Effectiveness of Alcohol Pricing Policies.

The report considers options for a minimum pricing regime and the possible costs and benefits.

Ms Collins says the Government will not be introducing minimum pricing on alcohol as this would hit moderate drinkers in the pocket when there is no compelling evidence that increasing the price of alcohol is the correct approach.

The Government will allow time for the new alcohol reforms to bed in and to assess their impacts, including the development and implementation of Local Alcohol Policies which are likely to take up to two years to come into full effect.

Ms Collins says the Government’s changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act aimed to strike a sensible balance to curb the harm of alcohol abuse without penalising moderate drinkers.

“New Zealanders who drink responsibly and moderately should not be unfairly targeted. Introducing a minimum pricing regime would see alcohol companies earn around $131m extra a year at the $1.20 minimum price point,” says Ms Collins.

The alcohol companies will be hoping Labour wins office as their former spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel, demanded that there be a minimum price of $2 a standard drink. This would mean it would be illegal to sell a bottle of wine for under $15 a bottle.

I suspect they don’t live in rural areas

March 16th, 2014 at 5:44 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Several groups including the Salvation Army and Alcohol Healthwatch said that New Zealand should set a long-term goal of banning any drinking before driving.

Which may work for people who live close to bars, but would mean people in country areas could never go out to dinner and have a wine with dinner.

Personally I think it is silly to say that it should be a criminal offence to drive after having a glass of wine with dinner.

Alcohol arithmetic

February 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Rising economic confidence and “aggressive” marketing techniques are the driving factors behind an 8.9 million litre rise in alcohol availability last year, says one concerned health organisation.

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand, which compared figures over the last five years, show the total volume of alcohol available in New Zealand rose to 466 million litres last year – the equivalent of 2.1 standard drinks per person aged 18 and over per day.

It represents an increase of almost 9 million litres from 2012, according to Statistics New Zealand.

How shocking! But Stats Chats points out the story neglected to mention this fact:

The volume of pure alcohol available per person aged 15 years and over was unchanged, at 9.2 litres. This equates to an average of 2.0 standard drinks per person per day.

So real story is level of alcohol available is unchanged per capita.

The total level of alcohol available is in fact still lower than in 2008, and much lower per capita.

In terms of the last year, wine is up 3.6%, beer up 3.2%, spirits up 1.0% and spirit-based drinks (RTDs) down 6.2%. What this means is the actual amount of pure alcohol available for consumption has actually dropped, and has done so for three years. The level is 4.4% lower than three years ago.


January 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A spy informs me that Parliament is a bit dry at the moment as Bellamys’ liquor license wasn’t renewed in time, and won’t be renewed until the end of the week.

The mother’s side

January 11th, 2014 at 9:19 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The woman said she had been at a close friend’s tangi out of town with her son on Tuesday – his ninth birthday.

They returned home in the afternoon and he went to play with friends across the road while she prepared dinner.

She said she had no idea that he had taken off to the skate park, about a kilometre away.

She understood a woman, aged in her mid-20s, gave her son the alcohol at the park.

“I don’t know her. I know of her,” she said. “I think they thought it would be funny.”

Police said he consumed eight pre-mixed bourbon and cola cans and two liqueur shots.

He came home about 6pm stinking of Lynx deodorant and behaving strangely.

“We were like, ‘Oh my god, he’s drunk’. Then we sorted him out and put him to lie down and that’s when the police turned up.”

She co-operated with police and has ongoing support from Child Youth and Family.

She said the young man who claimed to be the boy’s “big brother” in the video, and said it was “all good” that he was drunk, had since apologised to her.

She said she rarely drank alcohol and had never given it to her son, but would educate him about its dangers.

If she has never given alcohol to her son, then it is unfair to hold her directly responsible and she does seem genuinely shocked.

A reservation I have though is that I highly doubt that is the first time the nine year old has drunk alcohol. He had something like 18 standard drinks. If you’ve never drunk alcohol before and you weigh only around 30 kgs, then you’d be vomiting and passing out after just a few standard drinks.

So while I hope this is something that happened as a once off and with no family involvement, I am a bit cynical.

UPDATE: The Herald reports on a photo showing two more of her children with alcohol. The cynicism may be justified.

Is Labour really saying what counts is the strength of the alcohol a 9 year old drinks?

January 10th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Labour have said:

“There is something very wrong about any adult thinking that it’s fun, entertaining or appropriate to get a child drunk. This attitude is a wake-up call about the culture of drinking and youth drinking, that is going unchallenged right across New Zealand,” said Sue Moroney.

“The Labour Party challenges this damaging culture – we must change attitudes and support families to do their best for our next generation.

“It will also be a test of the Government’s alcohol law change of December 2013 which made an offence of supplying alcohol to a minor, without parental consent.

It never used to be an offence to supply minors with alcohol, only to sell it to them. The law changes should mean a very easy prosecution if the suppliers can be identified.

“Labour supported the Government’s alcohol law reforms, but criticised them for not going far enough.

“Amongst the amendments proposed by Labour was the outright banning of RTDs such as the one supplied to the Hamilton boy. Unfortunately, it was voted down by the Government, as were Labour’s other amendments to improve the law.

Is Labour really saying or implying that the problem is that the nine year old was drinking 7% RTDs instead of 5% RTDs? I mean, seriously? Isn’t that somewhat desperate. The nine year old shouldn’t be drinking any alcohol full stop.

Or are Labour saying that a 40 year old builder in West Auckland should be banned from drinking a 7% RTD because someone illegally supplied one to a nine year old? On that basis all alcohol in NZ would be banned.

“The Government failed to implement all of the recommendations of the Law Commission on alcohol law reform which Labour said were needed to challenge the damaging drinking culture in New Zealand.

Actually the proposal to restrict RTDs to 5% was not recommended by the Law Commission. One reason the Law Commission cited was substitution, and indeed the likely impact would be those who like 7% RTDs would then swap to self mixing their own drinks which tends to involve a strength of 13% to 20%.

“I am mindful that Fairfield is a community that wants more for its young people. While young people are still on holiday, parents must be vigilant. Greater access to youth programmes will go a long way to getting kids off the streets and finding productive ways to utilise their holiday time,” said Nanaia Mahuta.

So the problem was not enough local youth programmes. yeah, right.

The drunk nine year old

January 9th, 2014 at 7:55 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The man who filmed a drunk young boy at a skate park says he would not have released the video if police had acted hard and fast, and communicated that to him.

Bradley Goudie, 18, uploaded a video online which showed a nine-year-old boy at Fairfield Skate Park in Clarkin Rd on Tuesday afternoon with a can of Cody’s Bourbon and Cola – 7 per cent alcohol.

The boy, who struggles to stand and slurs his speech, says “I’ve been drunk before”. He also says he was given alcohol by his aunt.

Goudie, a professional scooter rider, said he was so shocked by the apparent drunkenness of the boy that he turned his camera on him and exposed what he considered one of the biggest issues in New Zealand – underage drinking.

Actually the proportion of people aged under 18 who drink has been dropping massively in the last few years. However this case is shocking and those who supplied him with the alcohol must be prosecuted and his custodial parent should probably lose custody. There is no way she could not know he is getting drunk.

Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling clinical manager Roger Brooking said authorities needed to take action over the incident.

“The police should be called and that kid should be taken off his parents or whoever’s looking after him and be placed in the care of social welfare.”

He said whoever gave the boy alcohol should face criminal charges.

I agree. Sadly it is probably already too late for the kid. If you are getting drunk and possibly stoned at age nine, then it is an uphill battle.

Child Matters founder Anthea Simcock said a crime had been committed and appropriate action should be taken.

The boy had been returned to his mother, who police said was “extremely distraught” to find her son in such a state.

But the boy’s father, who the Times has chosen not to name, said he wants his son to live with him.

The man had been going through a custody battle with his former partner and hadn’t seen the boy in six months.

He said it was “heart-wrenching” to see the video of his son online yesterday. “What I want to do is get my kids and pick them up.”

Either the mother knew what was happening, or she has picked the wrong people to look after her son.