NZ should adopt Scottish strategy to reduce alcohol harm

Stuff 22 June 2021 – Dr Alistair Humphrey is chair of the New Zealand Medical Association
They’re fond of a dram in Scotland. A little too fond, as it happens.

For years, Scotland has wrestled with the harm caused by alcohol. Early death, ill health, crime, suicide, and medical staff dealing with drunk and abusive patients.

Sound familiar? It should, because we face a very similar problem on this side of the world. Take it from a Kiwi with Scottish blood and the occasional whisky in his veins.

Like Scotland, drinking is deeply embedded in our culture. And like Scotland, we’ve been paying the human and financial price for years.

There’s a raft of things we need to do to save New Zealanders from hurting themselves and others through alcohol consumption. But adopting one strategy Scotland has used successfully would be a good start.

The New Zealand Medical Association has argued for MUP since 2016, along with raising the excise tax, as recommended by the Law Commission in a 2010 report that has been gathering dust ever since.

We urgently need to focus on off-licence sales, particularly to younger drinkers, because there are no controls at home. Can you say pre-loading?

The tri-agency approach by police, public health and district licensing inspectors means usually the safest place to have a drink is actually in a bar.

Bottom line: price rises won’t penalise responsible drinkers. But will reduce alcohol sales, consumption – and damage.