Binge Drinking Cheaper than Daily Coffee

First published on RNZ and republished with permission.

A person can binge drink for the price of a coffee, a study by Alcohol Healthwatch has found.

The study surveyed 10 licensed supermarkets and twelve bottle stores across low socio-economic areas in Auckland from March to May this year.

It found that beer, wine and light spirits sold for less than a dollar per standard drink.

The cheapest heavy spirits and RTD's were sold for less than $1.20 per standard drink.

Supermarkets offered the lowest priced alcohol and wine was the cheapest, thanks to it being undertaxed.

Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Nicki Jackson explained that "in New Zealand, we tax wine as if it is 10 percent alcohol. In reality, white wine is about 12.5 percent and red wine is 13.5 to 14.5 percent alcohol."

Prices have also not increased in line with inflation.

In 1988, a three-litre cask of wine cost $15. If it increased in price in line with inflation, it should cost $30.21, but the study found that it could be purchased at $23.

"The low price of alcohol is fuelling alcohol harm and has undoubtedly contributed to an increase in lockdown drinking," Jackson said.

Salvation Army assistant territorial secretary for the mission, Lt Colonel Lynette Hutson, added that low alcohol prices fuel the development and maintenance of an addiction.

"Whilst we commend the Government for increasing funding to addiction treatment, prevention must be a priority."

In September, Justice Minister Kris Faafoi confirmed that scoping for a review is underway.

He said any review of alcohol legislation would be in line with Te Tiriti o Waitangi commitments and subject to Cabinet approval.

Jackson recalled the last review of alcohol legislation was in 2010.

"The Ministry of Justice [in a 2012 law review] showed that an overall 10 percent increase in alcohol prices will yield hundreds of millions of dollars of cost savings to ACC, as well as to our justice and health services."

Alcohol Healthwatch's study has recommended the Minister implement evidence-based alcohol pricing policies, set a minimum unit price and increase alcohol excise tax to reduce alcohol harm.