Introduction

Alcohol plays many roles in New Zealand society. It creates employment, export income, tax revenue and is commonly used for relaxation, socialisation, and celebration.[1] On the other hand, hazardous alcohol consumption has significant costs to society, communities, families and individuals through violence, injury, death, crime, etc. Each year in New Zealand, alcohol consumption is responsible for 1040 deaths and is estimated to cost the country $4.8 billion.[2]

The amount of alcohol available for consumption continues to trend upwards, with 2008 levels reaching the highest levels since 1996.[3] This is reflected in New Zealand’s drinking culture, which shows that 21% of the population has a hazardous drinking pattern. This pattern is particularly evident in young people aged 18-24 years, in which more than one-half of male drinkers and one-third of female drinkers are hazardous drinkers. Other groups at risk include young males aged 15-17 years and Maori and Pacific populations.[4] A social gradient also exists, with levels of hazardous drinking increasing as deprivation increases.

The serious harm caused by alcohol warrants further attention, through development of policies aimed at both the individual and the wider environment. There are many regulatory levers[5] which can be used to impact on drinking behaviour, which include:

  • regulation of the physical availability of alcohol;
  • implementation of price and taxation policies;
  • restriction of advertising, sponsorship, and promotion;
  • modification of the drinking environment;
  • introduction of drink-driving countermeasures;
  • education and awareness-raising activities; and
  • treatment and early-intervention services.

Stronger evidence[6] lies in taking a legislative and environmental approach to reduce demand and supply. The focus of this report considers the regulation of alcohol advertising as a lever to reduce alcohol-related harm.

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[1] Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. National Alcohol Strategy 2006-2009. Perth: Author, 2006, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/B83AD1F91AA632ADCA25718E0081F1C3/$File/nas-06-09.pdf (accessed October 10, 2010)

[2] Business and Economic Research Limited. Costs of harmful alcohol and other drug use. Wellington: Author, 2009.

[3] Statistics New Zealand. Alcohol and Tobacco Available for Consumption: Year ended December 2008. Wellington: Author, 2009, http://www.stats.govt.nz/browse_for_stats/industry_sectors/alcohol_and_tobacco_availability/AlcoholAndTobacco_HOTPDec08.aspx (accessed September 5, 2010)

[4] Ministry of Health. A Portrait of Health: Key Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey.   Wellington: Author, 2008.

[5] New Zealand Ministry of Justice. Alcohol Reform 2010: Regulatory Impact Statement. Wellington: Author, 2010, http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy-and-consultation/regulatoryimpactstatements  (accessed October 10, 2010)

[6] Babor, T. F., Caetano, R., Casswell, S., Edwards, G., Giesbrecht, N., Graham, K., Grube, J. W. et al. Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity: Research and Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.