Alcohol Abuse: Its harmful nature and consequences

ALCOHOL ABUSE is saddling the New Zealand health system with “entirely avoidable costs” and causing despair among staff who pick up the pieces, Wellington health leaders say.

In an open letter to The Dominion Post, 14 of the 18 members of Capital & Coast and Hutt Valley district health boards have called for “a community-wide conversation” about alcohol, saying the health system can only do so much on its own.

The board members – who are voted in by the public or appointed by the Government – have added their voices to those of staff at both organisations, who have relentlessly decried the end effects of alcohol abuse.

Alcohol, as well as contributing to patients showing up at emergency departments, is responsible for a significant proportion of cancers, organ diseases and other long-term illnesses that the health system treats.

“Community agencies battle with other costs – broken relationships, poor work records, car crashes, domestic violence, money problems and heartbreaking wasted potential” said emergency department doctor Linda Head.

The group penned the open letter in support of the Cannons Creek community in Porirua which objected to the relicensing of local store Thirsty Liquor, near Russell School, and the manager’s certificate. The SPCS supports those who raised public awareness of the issue by engaging in a peaceful street march and wrote letters to the papers expressing their views.

Capital & Coast board member Judith Aitken said that “the regulatory regime that’s in place [to contol alcohol licensing, advertising etc] and is being considered by the Government, is completely inadequate”.

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc., a registered charity with the Charities Commission (CC20268), has as one of its objects for which it is established

“To focus attention on the harmful nature and consequences of [among other things] the ABUSE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS” (taken from section 2d of its Constitution)

It supports community groups speaking out about matters relevant to the moral and spiritual welfare of society, including “the harmful nature and consequences of sexual promiscuity, pornography, violence, fraud, dishonesty in business, exploitation … and other forms of moral corruption.” (S. 2d)

On the positive side, the Society was also established “To foster public awareness on the benefits to social, economic and moral welfare of the maintenance and promotion of good community standards, including supporting enforcement agencies to uphold such standards as set out in law and to encourage condstructive debate and discussion in this area.”

For this reason, individual members have made submissions over the years to parliamentary select committees and other forums such as the Law Commission – looking at proposed changes to our alcohol laws. The Society agrees with Capital & Coast Board member Judith Aitken that our current regulatory laws on alcohol are woefully inadequate.  Enforcement agencies need to be more proactive in enforcing the law and our courts need to deliver sentences that are commensurate with the offences/crimes committed – i.e. sentencing in line with the intention of the law – they MUST act ass a real deterrent to law breaking.

Family First NZ, a registered charity with the Charities Commission, has been calling for some years for a raising of  the drinking age. It made a submission to the Law Commission’s Inquiry calling for the purchase age to be lifted to 20. This call, supported by many community groups, and one that was included in the Law Commission’s original recommendationds, has been rejected by parliament.


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