Appeal to PM to help stop alcohol carnage
KIN columnist — and award-winning young adults writer — Mandy Hager has made a direct appeal to John Key to ‘do the right thing for once’ and step in to stop the alcohol havoc among young Kiwis.
After referring to the death of Kāpiti’s Izak Millanta, she says: “Given the carnage going on among our young people as a direct result of alcohol abuse, we all need to step up.’ Here’s her column…
‘We are a society steeped in…excessive amounts of drink’By Mandy Hager After the tragic death of local teenager Izak Millanta recently, there was much hand-wringing about how this could have happened in our nice little community. But with stories coming out on a weekly basis of drunken teenagers roaming the streets and out-of-control partying all over New Zealand we should not be surprised. We are a society steeped in drink. Excessive amounts of drink.
We’ve seen the Law Commission speaking out on alcohol reform, as have police, judges, and many others whose unlucky task it is to mop up the damage — including women’s refuges, emergency departments, addiction services… on and on it goes.
‘No collective will’
The trouble is we have no real collective will to make the kinds of changes necessary to rein this situation in. As a nation we can’t wait for Monday to joke about how drunk we got at the weekend, we centre all our national events around alcohol consumption, and we think it is our god-given right to buy cheap alcohol at any time of day or night – from anywhere.
Don’t get me wrong: I like my glass of red wine at night. But, given the carnage going on among our young people as a direct result of alcohol abuse, we all need to step up. And the first group who should be doing this are our Government, who have access to all the research and statistics and know damn well that they could legislate to achieve real change.
The trouble is the Government is in the pocket of the Alcohol Industry. Those trying to stem the tide say, for instance, significant improvements could be made if we banned RTDs (alcopops) containing more than 5% alcohol from being sold in liquor stores. These little beauties comprise 12% of the alcohol market by volume – and as many as 180 million are sold annually. A significant amount of these are consumed by vulnerable teenage girls (who, let’s face it, RTDs were created for) — and puts them at huge risk.
For a while it looked like the Government might actually do something… but then the 5% got pushed up to 6%. And then last week, according to Gordon Campbell, ‘the heads of four multinational spirits companies — Bacardi, Beam, Brown-Forman and Diago — met Justice Minister Judith Collins, who is responsible for the Alcohol Reform Bill.’
Lo and behold…. yesterday Judith Collins announced that the Government would not restrict RTDs with more than 6% alcohol content from off-licence shops! The Bill will have ‘regulation-making power’ – but the Government will not use it at this time. All this, while the Drug Foundation says RTDs are ‘one of the most cynical forms of alcohol.’
‘…Government pandering to multinationals’
This kind of Government pandering to multinationals makes me sick — especially when the health, safety and long-term wellbeing of our young people is at risk. No-one can honesty dispute the fact that alcohol is creating havoc in our society – especially among our kids — so how about a bit of positive role modelling from the people at the top?
Come on John Key. You’ve seen the kind of tragedy that kids with access to excess alcohol can create – your son goes to Kings College so you’ve experienced the damage first hand. Just for once please do the right thing and make public policy that actually has the wellbeing of the public at its heart.