Ban alcohol in supermarkets - doctors

The Medical Association wants to see alcohol banned from the aisles of supermarkets.

Alcohol Health Watch has joined in, describing supermarkets as New Zealand's worst drug pushers.

When beer and wine went on sale in the supermarkets 30 years ago, campaigners argued it made a harmful drug convenient. The Medical Association is still arguing that.

"We know it causes harm and it causes harm for what you might call a lot of people with ordinary diseases. We think of trauma; we think of cirrhosis of the liver. What we don't necessarily think of is high blood pressure, strokes, breast cancer - all have a component caused by alcohol," says Dr Alastair Humphrey from the New Zealand Medical Association.

Campaigners say booze should be treated as an abnormal commodity.

"It normalises it, as if it's your bread and your milk. In fact it's New Zealand's most harmful drug in society - more than methamphetamine, more than heroin, more than tobacco. We don't want this in our supermarkets," says Dr Nicki Jackson from Alcohol Healthwatch.

Alcohol Healthwatch says 60 percent of wine sales are from supermarkets.

Before 1989 you couldn't buy a drop of alcohol at a supermarket, but since it hit shelves sales of wine have doubled. Campaigners say that's because supermarkets are so convenient and cheap.

In fact, standard bottles of wine can be found on sale in Countdown and New World for as little as $7.

But beverage company Lion says alcohol consumption has decreased since the late 1970s and the vast majority of us drink sensibly and safely.

For the supermarkets, Foodstuffs says buying alcohol with food is a responsible way of shopping and only supermarkets offer this balance.

Countdown says the sale of beer and wine is strictly regulated, and there are greater restrictions for supermarkets than other types of off-licences.

Campaigners argue we can still choose to buy alcohol, but New Zealanders are hazardous drinkers and booze shouldn't be in our faces when we buy our daily groceries.