Supermarkets are drug pushers, says lobbyist

By Beck Vass

Professor Sellman believes the Government should remove alcohol from supermarket shelves. Photo / Greg Bowker
Professor Sellman believes the Government should remove alcohol from supermarket shelves. Photo / Greg Bowker

Supermarkets are drug "pushers" who are selling high quantities of discounted wine and should be viewed the same as dealers dishing out Ecstasy pills or morphine.

It may seem extreme but it's a view that Professor Doug Sellman, director of the National Addiction Centre and spokesman for the Alcohol Action Group, is taking quite seriously.

Professor Sellman believes the Government should remove alcohol from supermarket shelves and limit the amount of advertising operators are allowed for liquor, among many changes he hopes might alter people's attitudes to drinking.

Think it's over the top? He will tell you that's because you have been brainwashed into downplaying our excessive consumption of alcohol.

In a three-month study of advertising in the Herald, the Dominion Post, the Press and the Otago Daily Times, Professor Sellman said New World was the country's biggest "drug pusher" because it had the most alcohol-related advertising.

He said the sale of alcohol in supermarkets made it cheaper and easier to get, which meant more people would use it.

Some supermarkets also sold alcohol below cost to lure customers in, which was contributing to the problem.

"Having the cheapest alcohol in town gets people into the supermarket to then buy the other stuff ... It's basically maintaining the heavy-drinking culture.

"The sale of alcohol in supermarkets is very accessible and normalises it as an ordinary grocery item so people are slowly brainwashed into thinking, 'This actually isn't a drug, this is like fruit and vege.'

"People are taking this drug in large quantities not realising that they're really taking a drug.

"It's that normalisation of alcohol which is one of the real insidious drivers of the heavy-drinking culture."

Foodstuffs, which owns New World, Four Square and Pak'nSave, refused to comment.

A spokeswoman for Progressive Enterprises, owner of Countdown, Foodtown and Woolworths, could not be contacted last night.

Professor Sellman said the Government's proposed reforms did not go far enough.

The Government also missed an opportunity for change when it did not lower the drink-driving limit as suggested by the Law Commission's report in April, he said.

The report also identified price rises and marketing restrictions as key elements in reducing the harm from drinking.

"If alcohol was invented today coming into the country and put in front of the [Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs], it would be classified as a Class B drug along with morphine, d-amphetamine and Ecstasy."

- NZ Herald

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