The passing of the Alcohol Reform Bill into law today was met with a resounding “meh” by the New Zealand Drug Foundation.
Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said the Government had passed up an opportunity to make a real positive change to New Zealand’s harmful heavy drinking culture and had instead tinkered around the edges.
“It’s a bit meh because the law fails to address the most important issues to reduce alcohol-related harm,” said Mr Bell.
Nothing has been done to address the low price of alcohol, long hours of availability, saturation advertising, purchase age, and providing adequate treatment for those people with alcohol problems.
“While there are some parts of the bill which are potentially positive — such as local alcohol policies, parental consent, and reducing the number of places alcohol will be available from — the new alcohol law will not reduce harm as much as people have hoped and expected,” said Mr Bell.
“Thankfully the Government has left open the possibility of addressing minimum price and lowering the blood alcohol content (BAC) for drink drivers.
“Increasing price of the cheapest alcohol, reducing marketing and advertising, and lowering the BAC are both proven measures that will reduce alcohol-related harm.”
“The Government should now provide a timeline for action on minimum price, advertising, and BAC.”
Mr Bell said the next step is to ensure communities have the tools they need to take part in the formulation of their local alcohol plans.
“At the start of this process there were people marching in their communities asking for more control over local liquor licenses,” said Mr Bell.
“Now that the Government has given communities greater power to set their local alcohol policy it needs to ensure communities have the knowledge and tools to shape their policies.”
Drug harm experts say funding for a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses is critical in the face of an increasingly toxic drug supply and the emergence of powerful synthetic opioids.
Survey participants also reported that barriers to accessing services, resources and information were high.
A group of powerful synthetic opioids that were first detected in the country just a year ago may have already been linked to several deaths.