Herald on RTDs

The Herald editorial:

Sweet-tasting and high-strength “alcopops” have become the drink of choice for many young women. They take much of the blame for binge-drinking, and governments, unsurprisingly, are seeking to limit their consumption. 

a particular form of alcohol is actually a dumb thing to do. Natural, not dumb. Far more harm is caused from straight spirits. Worrying about the 8% drinks, and ignoring the 13%, 20%, 40% and even 55% drinks is just kneejerk.

One advantage of RTDs, often overlooked, is that people know exactly how much alcohol is in them, and how much they are drinking. A six pack of 8% RTDs is a defined limit. A bottle of rum and a couple of bottles of coke is not.

Australia imposed a 70 per cent tax hike on them.

Most alcopop drinkers simply switched to other spirits. 

Glad the Herald realises , and mentioned it.

The Key Government, however, has come up with an alternative that could be more effective.

It wants, as part of the Alcohol Reform Bill, to ban off-licence stores from selling alcopops with more than 6 per cent alcohol content. Some drinkers may react, once again, by opting for substitutes. But the attraction of alcopops is their sweetness and cheapness. It may just be that deprived of this, young women, especially, may reduce their drinking.

That’s three mays and a could. Hardly a basis for confidence. And let me tell you why they are wrong.

Most female RTD drinkers like the 5% RTDs. They are the ones that are sweet and cheap. This proposed regulation will not affect those female drinkers at all.

Those who like the 8% RTDs though said (in POS research done by Curia) they were 68% likely to substitute if restricted to 5% and those drinking 9% or stronger RTDs were 88% likely to substitute.

Now who drinks the 8% or stronger RTDs? Mainly men, and those aged over 40. So in an attempt to do something about young women drinking 5% RTDs, the Government is proposing a law which will in fact not even affect those young women drinking 5% RTDs, but instead will piss off “Waitakere Man” who likes his 8% RTDs. And Waitakere Man, will probably go back to mixing his own rum and cokes at 13% strength, rather than drink 5% RTDs, because to him they taste like lolly water.

Alcopops are being tackled because they have been identified as being especially harmful.

No. There is a perception they are especially harmful. I know of no research showing that RTDs are especially harmful. I’d say straight spirits and cheap wine (the two things most likely to be substituted) are more harmful.

RTDs in fact are generally the most expensive way to get drunk – often costing the most per standard drink.

The European upheld the right of Sweden and France to place restrictions on the sale of alcopops. The Government, with little to fear and much to gain, should stick to its guns.

The Government should on the basis of evidence, not kneejerking. The Law Commission itself did not recommend targeting RTDs, citing the substitution issue.

This move will not only not work, it will in my honest belief, increase harm from alcohol. I suggest anyone who thinks it will work to actually go and talk to RTD drinkers and ask them what they will do if they cannot purchase RTDs over 5% or 6%.

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