A lobby group argues the only way to stop Kiwis drinking excessively and having alcohol flood the market is to raise the tax on liquor.

Alcohol Healthwatch Executive says a February report it commissioned found more alcohol was available per person in the October-December quarter of 2017 than at any other time in the past five years.

This was combined with findings that there had been an increase in people aged between 35 and 74 drinking hazardously, executive director Dr Nicki Jackson said on Monday.

Among those drinking hazardously, more than a third were aged 35-54.

“This is the generation that is driving our economy, raising our children, and running our country,” Ms Jackson said.

She said the only age group that had reduced their drinking were adolescents.

The best way to get more people to follow suit and drink less was to target their wallets, she said.

“Evidence strongly suggests that to reverse these drinking trends and set New Zealand on a path where our potential is not hindered by our alcohol use, we need to increase the price of alcohol,” Dr Jackson said.

“The real price of wine is 30 per cent lower today than it was in 1988. This is reflected in supermarket prices where bottles of wine can now be purchased for $5.99.”

She said raising the excise tax on alcohol was fair because those who drank the most, paid the most.

“Around 20 per cent of New Zealanders do not drink, yet they also pay the considerable cost of alcohol harm in our society,” she said.

“We hear urgent calls from our emergency department physicians for help with overflowing waiting rooms, so by reducing New Zealanders’ alcohol consumption, we could greatly reduce the burden on our hospital staff.”

She said money raised through higher alcohol taxes could be spent on funding mental health and addiction or other social services.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told TV3’s The AM Show that raising taxes on alcohol was “not something on our agenda”.

“I’ve always had the personal view that yes, we have issues with our drinking culture… (but) it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that we change that culture.”

Source: Newstalk ZB


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