Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Project encourages responsible drinking

The project has been met with suspicion by alcohol health advocates. Photo / Thinkstock
The project has been met with suspicion by alcohol health advocates. Photo / Thinkstock

A project designed to encourage New Zealanders to drink responsibly was launched by members of the alcohol industry in Auckland last night.

But it has been met with suspicion by alcohol health advocates.

The first initiative of The Tomorrow Project is the introduction of a "Cheers!" website, cheers.org.nz, which aims to bring about change to the way New Zealanders drink.

A spotlight has been shone on New Zealand's excessive drinking culture and the Alcohol Law Reform Bill is before Parliament at the moment.

The website looks at appropriate times to be drinking, managing the impact of alcohol on health and when to introduce teenagers to booze.

Its homepage said having a drink was a "normal part of the way we socialise".

"But we all need to look after our health and well-being too. This is where you can find out more about how to do both."

The Tomorrow Project was launched at The Cloud event centre, backed by the Brewers Association, Distilled Spirits Association and New Zealand Winegrowers which represent 1300 businesses in the industry.

Cheers! programme director Jessica Venning-Bryan said its research showed New Zealanders had a "fairly low" level of understanding about the way alcohol affected the body and mind.

"To make good decisions, people first need good information, so we hope to play a role in improving New Zealanders' alcohol consciousness."

The groups behind the project were experienced at communicating with alcohol drinkers, so were in an "unparalleled" position to supplement education programmes, Ms Venning-Bryan said.

But watchgroup Alcohol Healthwatch said because the project was being run by companies with a vested interest in selling the product, it was disingenuous and should not be trusted.

Director Rebecca Williams said the initiative was part of an alcohol industry plan to delay and deflect the implementation of effective public policy measures.

"Governments now know that they need to restrict availability of alcohol and curb the relentless marketing in order to address the burden of alcohol harm experienced by the people of their nations.

"However, when they try to implement such measures, alcohol industry groups threaten legal action and offer these useless programmes as alternatives."

Ms Williams said the project was an attempt to make it look like the industry was socially responsible and that the Government did not need to intervene.

She said New Zealanders were not aware of the level of risk associated with alcohol.

"The alcohol industry works to ensure that they don't. When our laws and regulations are lax, they can get away with painting a glowing portrait of this drug that masks its inherent risk."

New Zealand's blueprint for change lay in the Law Commission's final report on its review of the regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor, she said.

New Zealand Drinking Patterns:

* 85 per cent of New Zealanders aged 16 to 64 drank alcohol in the past year (Ministry of Health, 2009);

* Three in five (61.6 per cent) past-year drinkers consumed more than ALAC recommends (a maximum of six standard drinks for males and four for females on a drinking occasion) at least once during the last year (Ministry of Health, 2009);

* One in eight (12.6 per cent) past-year drinkers consumed more than the recommended guidelines more than once a week during the last year (Ministry of Health, 2009);

* One in six (17.7 per cent) adults (aged 15+) have a potentially hazardous drinking pattern (Ministry of Health, 2008);

* One in four (28.7 per cent) women who had been pregnant in the past three years reported that they had consumed alcohol while pregnant (Ministry of Health, 2009); and

* One in ten (10 per cent) adult drinkers reported planning to get drunk on their last drinking occasion (Research New Zealand, 2009).

- APNZ

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