Reaction to alcohol package

The dairy owners are not too happy:

Several changes announced yesterday included a law that will clarify that dairies and convenience stores cannot be off-licences, therefore cannot sell alcohol.

Ashok Darji, who owns Ash’s Wine and Lotto Superette in Mission Bay, says the move unfairly targets and punishes dairies.

“It basically contradicts. People who want to get a lot of cheap alcohol will go to the supermarket. And a little superette – that’s mostly a customer coming home from work and just wants to pick up a bottle of wine.

“It’s not really our core business, but it’s more a convenience thing. They’re not coming here to buy a dozen beers, they’re going to supermarkets, so why [punish] us?”

Mr Darji has been selling wine at his superette for more than 10 years.

He said during that time, he had never had any problems regarding his selling alcohol, and was upset that he – with many others around the country – would be punished.

It would be interesting to see some solid research on how much alcohol is sold where, to try and ascertain if dairies are a problem.

In this story, my dreams come true. Labour is campaigning for the entire Palmer report to be adopted:

Labour leader Phil Goff said he wanted the commission’s full set of recommendations, including an increase in alcohol excise and tougher rules on advertising.

A vote for Labour means a vote for a 50% increase in alcohol excise tax, a ban on Tui billboards, sports teams losing tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship, outlawing the Speights Southern Men ads, a compulsory one way policy at 2 am, and making it an offence for a 19 year old to have a glass of wine in a restaurant with their parents.

This story reports on the impact on RTD makers:

Independent Liquor Group has been given a serve in liquor law reforms announced yesterday.

The South Auckland-based firm dominates the market for “Ready To Drink” products popular with the young – the segment most directly affected by the changes.

The company, owned by private equity group Pacific Equity Partners, got sobering news with the Government limiting the maximum alcohol in RTDs to just 5 per cent.

Many RTDs are 7 per cent and above. In particular, Independent’s bourbon and coke brand Woodstock is a market leader in the RTD market. Its alcohol content is 8 per cent.

I’ve never had an RTD myself. From what I can tell, the intent of the package is to make it hard for people to get hammered on RTDs. What we don’t know is whether this means people will stick with RTDs if they are the same strength as beer, or will they move onto hard spirits?

Derek Cheng reports that the Government did not agree to the recommendations to ban Tui billboards:

Tui billboards, alcohol-sponsored music festivals and sexy television advertisements depicting euphoric parties will not be affected by the Government’s alcohol reform package, despite evidence that a crackdown on marketing would reduce youth drinking.

If you do want Tui billboards banned, Labour is promising to do so.

Having said that I don’t think the current ASA self-regulatory model is effective. There needs to be a sanction for ads which breach the code beyond no longer displaying the ad. I think there needs to be actual penalties for advertisements that breach the code.

The Auckland Mayoral contenders support the 4 am closing.

The NZ Herald editorial says the package is a solid start:

Anything less than a full-scale embrace of the Law Commission’s 153 recommendations on reducing the harm caused by alcohol was always going to lead to accusations of Government tinkering and timidity.

But the plans announced yesterday amount to a reasonably practical and coherent response to the problems that have arisen from two decades of liberal liquor laws.

Sensibly, the temptation to return to a time when access to liquor was strictly constrained, but drinking habits were in many ways worse, has been resisted. Instead, there is to be a targeted assault on the excesses encouraged by the current regime.

Vernon Small reports those who wanted more:

The Salvation Army, Alcohol Action and the Drug Foundation said the Government should have raised excise on alcohol to make drinking more expensive – a key recommendation from the Law Commission, which reviewed all the alcohol laws.

The Drug Foundation said it was “deeply disappointed that two vital areas of reform have been ignored: the proliferation of cheap booze and the intense marketing, advertising and promotion of liquor”. …

Professor Jennie Connor, head of preventive and social medicine at Otago University, said the changes would make no substantial difference to the heavy drinking culture, or to the scale of harm caused. They were a small step in the right direction, but were like “fighting a bushfire with a couple of garden hoses for the next 20 years. The Government has seriously misread public concern about heavy drinking and needs to rethink its policies”.

If Professor Cooper thinks the public were demanding a 50% increase in alcohol excise tax, she is seriously wrong.

John Hartevelt reports another critic:

The director of Christchurch’s National Addiction Centre, Professor Doug Sellman, said the Government was wrong to see alcohol abuse as essentially a youth problem.

Research found that 92 per cent of New Zealand’s heavy drinkers were 20 years and over, and 70 per cent were 25 and over.

“Aiming measures primarily at youth while avoiding anything substantial that would reduce heavy drinking among adults is scapegoating young people for the country’s heavy drinking culture and fails to address the main issue,” he said.

The Government had avoided the big policy decisions, such as increasing prices and restricting advertising, and ended up with a package that was “like treating cancer with a couple of aspirin”.

So does that mean banning Tui billboards would be like chemotherapy?

The Press reports Bob Parker supports the package:

Liquor-law reforms will enable Christchurch communities to “write their own futures”, Mayor Bob Parker says.

The Government yesterday announced a package of alcohol measures.

The reforms feature a proposal allowing communities to decide their own “alcohol plan”, including the concentration, location, and opening hours of liquor outlets.

Parker said he felt “very positive” about the proposed reforms.

“We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time.”

Finally The Press editorial says they are a step in the right direction but a lost opportunity:

The package of Government policies to reduce problem drinking is a step in the right direction but it is still a relatively modest step.

While the measures it will introduce are welcome, in several areas, including the adult drink-driving limit and the price of alcohol, the Government has resisted calls for more decisive action. …

Overall, therefore, although the Government package will assist in the battle against excessive drinking, it also represents a lost opportunity to make more serious progress in our society’s goal of ending the binge drinking culture.

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