Mark Sainsbury: Supermarkets are not causing our alcohol problem

OPINION: I know alcohol causes problems, but so do a lot of things and they're not banned from supermarkets.

Cream buns make us fat; cigarettes give us cancer. But you don't get your sugar from a locked case behind the cashier, and we still sell Lotto tickets in supermarkets despite our addiction to gambling and the social consequences of that.

But now the doctors have ordered we ban selling grog in supermarkets. The New Zealand Medical Association has joined the chorus of health groups calling for the booze to be taken off supermarket shelves because it's too damn easy to buy the stuff.

They say selling alcohol in your local supermarket makes it too normal. Booze, they say, should be treated as an abnormal commodity so it has no place on the supermarket shelves.

We all know alcohol can cause harm. Just as cigarettes cause harm, cream buns cause harm and some drugs cause harm.

But why should we be looking at treating alcohol differently?

We are used to having alcohol being a normal readily available product; we are used to going to do our shopping and picking up some grog at the same time. We've been doing that for 30 years so what has changed?

Has the supermarket experiment really made things bad enough to turn back the clock?

Imagine if we said weekend trading had undermined the fabric of our society and we were going back to shutting up the town on weekends so people could get family time.

You'd say it was too late, there's no going back.

Or should we take the same approach to supermarket alcohol sales that we did when we supported local communities stopping the proliferation of bottle stores?

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE.