Law Commission on Alcohol

The Herald reports some proposals from the Law Commission:

One of the issues for later discussion was the substantial gap between the taxes the country received from alcohol purchases, $795 million, and the estimated cost of harmful misuse of alcohol of $5.296 billion.

“It does seem to me that the taxpayer should not be asked to shoulder as much of the burden as is currently being met from public funds,” Sir Geoffrey said.

“It does seem that the case for increasing the price of alcohol to ensure drinkers contribute more to the costs imposed on society is persuasive.”

He suggested increasing the excise would be appropriate.

The estimated social cost figure is no doubt exagerrated – they probably assume that a crime commited when drunk would never have happened if sober etc. But nevertheless there may be an economic argument to increase the excise tax. However if you increase it too much, you will just help the out. You also may push people away from drinking in bars (a more controlled environment) and into buying alcohol more cheaply from bottle stores, which is more likely to lead to binge drinking.

The legal drinking age should also be increased he said.

There is no such thing. Sir Geoffrey should know better. There is a purchase age and it should not be raised. A 19 year old should not be a criminal for buying a bottle of wine.

What they should do is look at whether there should in face be a drinking age, and if there should be an offence to supply alcohol to those under the drinking age.

There was an equally strong case for limiting the hours off-licences could be open.

“I do not understand why bars need to be open to 6am on a Sunday morning.”

People once said they should not be open at 7 pm. It is not for Sir Geoffrey to understand. If enough people want a drink at 6 am, then why not. Having said that, most bars now close by 5 am.

There was also a strong argument for lowering the blood alcohol from 80mg per 100ml for adult drivers to 50mg per 100ml.

No there is a very weak argument. A very small proportion of crashes involve a driver with blood alcohol between 60mg and 80mg per 100ml.

“For under 20-year-olds it should be lowered to zero regardless of licence status.”

This I agree with.

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