Renewed call for supermarket alcohol sales ban

Doug Sellman
Doug Sellman
The head of the University of Otago's National Addiction Centre (NAC) is welcoming a fresh call for supermarkets to be banned from selling alcohol, saying they are using cheap booze as "bait".

The call came in a Hospitality Association of New Zealand (Hanz) submission on the Alcohol Reform Bill to Parliament'sjustice and electoral select committee yesterday.

Hanz argued the negative impacts of past alcohol reform was sourced to the availability of cheap alcohol from supermarkets, increasing the availability of alcohol to youths.

Supermarkets were also driving binge-drinking by using alcohol as a "loss leader", sold below cost to attract shoppers.

There was a "strong case" for removing alcohol from supermarkets and grocery stores, or risk the worst features of alcohol consumption continuing "unabated", the Hanz submission argued.

NAC director Prof Doug Sellman - of the University's Christchurch campus - said he supported the call by Hanz, despite the ideas being based on the "pure self-interest" of its members.

"One of the biggest problems that's driving the heavy drinking culture is the normalised, easy access alcohol from supermarkets.

"It's just pure self-interest, but in fact on this occasion the pure self-interest of the hospitality association does map on to what the evidence says about reducing harm across the population."

Prof Sellman said a ban would be one of the major ways of rectifying New Zealand's heavy-drinking culture, but he would also support minimum pricing.

There was a parallel between changing the heavy-drinking culture and the fight to remove smoking from pubs, he believed.

"You'd never believe we could, but of course we have, and it's made for a better country.

"With that as example ... I think we can feel optimistic it will happen."

Prof Sellman - who will address the select committee on Friday - said he had no evidence supermarkets were using alcohol as loss leader, and supermarkets denied it, "but I think certainly it has happened".

"In any event, it's being used as a bait."

Changes outlined by Hanz would have an impact on supermarkets' profits, but cause only mild inconvenience to responsible drinkers and minimal pain in their wallets.

"But it will hit heavy drinkers."

Progressive Enterprises national communications and public affairs manager Luke Schepen released a brief statement saying the company upheld "our part in the responsible service of alcohol".

Foodstuffs did not respond to a call seeking comment.

The Hanz submission said off-licence sales should be restricted to specialist liquor stores or over the counter on-licences, along with a minimum price.

It also called for price promotions to be banned, and instant fines for public drunkenness.

It also recommended making 18 the legal drinking age, rather than the age of purchase, with the exception of youths supervised by a parent or guardian.


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