Western cultures are "besotted with alcohol" and are failing to address the problems it causes, particularly in relation to women.

That was the message given at this morning's launch in Auckland of a policy briefing paper which aims to tackle the relationship between women and alcohol.

Alcohol Healthwatch and Women's Health Action have published the paper, which will be sent to all MPs and Government Ministers in the next week, in a bid to influence future policy on alcohol.

"We are operating in a strategy vacuum," said Rebecca Williams, from Alcohol Healthwatch.


"We haven't had an alcohol policy since 2003. We do not have a national approach, or a coordinated approach."

The two groups, who jointly commissioned the policy briefing paper, said it was important to talk about alcohol and women because alcohol affects women differently to men in terms of health, and women are more likely to be on the receiving end of the harmful effects of alcohol, such as violence and sexual abuse.

Women's alcohol consumption is on the increase, and "we don't really know why", they said, something which was hindered by "gaping holes" in the available research and data.

However, they said key target areas for the Government should be pricing, how the alcohol industry markets its products, and availability. They also suggested the introduction of community-based interventions and ways to target individuals vulnerable to alcohol abuse.

Ms Williams said the biggest problem was how "normalised alcohol consumption is" in our society.

"Until we make a difference in the culture we won't get there," she said.

Her opinion was shared by guest speaker Ann Dowsett Johnston, a former Canadian journalist who has written a book, Drink: The intimate relationship between Women and Alcohol.

She said western cultures were "totally besotted with alcohol", but had failed to have an honest conversation about the harmful effects it can have.


"We don't really want to hear something negative about our favourite drug," she said.