Off-licence price hikes could curb pre-loading - Alcohol Healthwatch

New research shows New Zealanders are among the most prolific pre-loaders in the world - the act of drinking at home before a night out.

The survey found 79 percent of Kiwis do it, according to data published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.

The researchers found that countries with high drinking rates in general also had high rates of pre-loading.

People tend to pre-load when the price of buying alcohol at a bar, club or restaurant is higher than the price of buying alcohol from a bottle store, and that difference in price needs to be addressed through taxes, Dr Nicki Jackson, executive director of Alcohol Healthwatch, said on The AM Show.

The price of alcohol from a bar, club or restaurant is 2.6 times more expensive than those bought off-premises, the study found. 

"We know that the price differential between off-licences and on-licences matter.

"When you have a high number of liquor outlets, they all compete with one another and the prices come down and the trading hours go up, so this stimulates pre-loading."

Dr Jackson said while other countries have looked at excise tax and minimum pricing, alcohol industry lobbyists have helped prevent New Zealand from increasing the price of alcohol purchased from a shop.

"We've had consecutive years of cigarette taxes and yet alcohol hasn't achieved the same attention.

"Raising the price is the strongest evidence-based tool we have available to reduce consumption in this country."

She said communities opposed to new alcohol shops opening are "unsuccessful against the industry", and policy introduced to give communities a say on local alcohol policies has been a failure. 

Around 1100 New Zealanders die every year from alcohol-related causes.

The sale of single drinks should be looked at

Dr Jackson said banning the sale of single drinks has been successful in parts of the United States.

"When you ban them, alcohol-related admissions fall. We are all paying a cost for this as a society", Dr Jackson said.

Increasing hazardous drinking among 35-64 year olds

The survey found the rate of drinking has increased in every age group, apart from 15-to-17-year olds.

Some of the biggest increases in risky drinking have been in the 35-64-year-old age group, Dr Jackson said, citing the latest New Zealand Health Survey in a follow-up email.

She said that may be because the group "experienced the liberalised policies of the 1990s, and they have continued their hazardous drinking patterns".

Key points

  • 79 percent of New Zealanders pre-loaded, the fourth-highest rate in the world, behind Ireland at 85 percent, Norway at 81 percent and at Canada at 80 percent.
  • Overall, 63 percent of respondents were pre-loaders.
  • On-premise drinks are on average 2.6 times more expensive than those bought off-premise.
  • The study found a strong connection between prevalence of drinkers in a country and rates of pre-loading.
  • No significant association was found between pre-loading and the rate of heavy drinking.
  • The density of alcohol outlets is "highest in the most deprived areas", according to the New Zealand Drug Foundation.     
  • The Health Promotion Agency recommends men should drink no more than five standard drinks on any one occasion. Women should have no more than four.  

Watch the video to see Dr Nicki Jackson on The AM Show.