Sunday 21 October 2007

Booze in supermarkets

Yesterday I went out shopping as my brother was getting a few people together at his place for my visit back to Christchurch.

I popped out to get a few things at the local supermarket. It was another crystal clear day here. The air is crispy fresh, and the climate now relatively smog-free, following a long-term plan to reduce and soon ban open fires within homes in Canterbury.

Experiencing the morning dew and the new found relationship of the bedroom heater and hot water bottle, I ventured over to Redcliffs, that nestles against the Sumner hills, to collect a few things for our soiree.

I went to get some local produce for desert, but then stumbled across almost an isle of alcohol. It's about now that I remember and chuckle to myself on how backward and conservative some of Australia is, especially Queensland.

New Zealand passed legislation 18 years ago to allow supermarkets able to sell such products. The experience of New Zealand deregulating is interesting. Since this time, the number of alcohol sales outlets has more than doubled, but the overall alcohol consumption continues to fall. There appears no connection between increased availability and increased alcohol consumption.

Over the last 5 years, there was a marked increase in sales from supermarkets (26%-64%), especially amongst young Kiwis.

There has been few problems associated with this greater access to alcohol.
Studies, including analysing behavior following changes in laws, fail to find any evidence supporting limiting or reducing the number of alcohol outlets or limiting the days or hours during which alcohol can be sold. In fact, some research has found that the tougher the controls over availability, the greater the alcohol abuse.

For example, where taverns and other on-premise outlets are fewer and more geographically spread, the incidence of driving while intoxicated tends to be higher. Others have found that lower availability is associated with less frequent but very heavy drinking and other problems.

The evidence from studies around the world suggests that neither limiting the number of outlets nor the days/hours of sale would be effective in reducing alcohol problems.

On the contrary, it might increase problems or create new ones. For example, past Australian and New Zealand laws closing bars at six o'clock got the working men out of the establishments and possibly home to their families in time for dinner. However, they also produced the custom known as the six o'clock swill, which involves consuming as much alcohol as possible between the end of work and the six o'clock closing time.

New Zealanders tend to led the way on such liberal legislating. For those that knock all things Kiwi, you only have to look at the advances or changes in social legislation over the last 20 years that leave Australia behind, making is a far more liberal and socially progressive society.

Prostitution reform, Succession Law, Homosexual Reform, Civil Unions, adoption and custody. All this radical social legislation, has made New Zealand a more tolerate and respectful country.
Although some would argue, that these is less State interference in the personal lives of it's citizens, there are areas like the recent Child Discipline bill, which caused civil libertarian groups to ask the nanny state to butt out. This bill removed from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of "reasonable force" to 'correct' a child. There is now no justification for the use of force for that purpose. Only seven MPs voted against the proposed legislation.
Oh dear, I think I'll have another drink.

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