Thursday, April 14, 2016


A few years ago I would have died in the ditch opposing oppose any attempt to limit the percentage of alcohol in Ready to Drink bottles (RTDs) ... seen as Nanny State personified.

No more.    You ask anyone involved in front-line policing the situation that they dread having to deal with and it's the young teenage girl having consumed 4 RTDs in a relatively short time and the combination of 7% alcohol and the high sugar content and you have a falling down time-bomb out of control.   Not a pretty sight and touched by a male policeman and they're likely to scream rape.

RTDs are a gateway drink aimed pretty much exclusively at the female teenage market (young males still tend towards beer).    You can purchase a quad pack of RTDs for less than $10.   It's cheap and it packs a punch masked by the lolly water taste.   For many a night on the town is characterised by 'front loading' (drinks prior to setting out) 'side-loading' (stashing alcohol in vehicle parked adjacent to the establishment where they are drinking and nipping out to replenish thus avoiding having to pay regular bar prices) and 'back loading' (from the stash) after the establishment has closed ... and the results can be catastrophic.

At the time of the passing of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 the Greens argued for a limit on the percentage of alcohol in RTDs along with minimum retail pricing (mrp). The Government took the view that it was preferable to have the industry self-regulate their own standard (they decided on 7%) while opposing mrp.    For me, and while I remain unconvinced the merits of mrp, I am prepared to rethink my previous opposition to any attempt to regulate the percentage of alcohol in RTDs.

I go back to Clause 4 (Object) of the Act which states (a) the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly and (b) the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised. The word 'minimised' has been defined in case law as meaning 'to reduce to the lowest possible degree'.

On that basis I now believe on the evidence that the sale of RTDs with an alcohol content of 7% runs counter to the Act.   I would limit the alcohol content to that of a mid-strength beer (4.7%).

I will be interested in the debate.   On thing for sure ... most people will have an opinion on this.


Novel said...

Ok you're going to make beer the standard drink?
Better stock up on your Johnny Walker Black Label

The Veteran said...

'Novel' ... I suspect you're trying to be funny in response to a serious post on what should be a matter of public concern but, in case you're not, No, I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. My suggestion is that we limit the alcohol content in RTDs to 4.7% ... but I think you knew that.

Noel said...

Ok then lets get serious.
Other countries have tried taxing the RTD's driving preloaders to buy spirits instead.
Many preloaders do it because that want to get the feeling of been drunk and can't achieve that with the prices in the hospitality industry when they get to the bar.

Any suggestion that reducing the level of alcohol in RTD's will result in a major change in preloading seems fanciful to me.

Instead of premix they will simply change to mix their own.

The Veteran said...

Noel ... not suggesting taxing. I made it clear that I remained unconvinced on that. But there are only so many 'lolly water' RTDs you can comfortably drink and reducing the alcohol content seems a sensible way forward given the object of the Act.

If you accept there is a problem (and maybe you don't) then I would be interested in your solution.

Noel said...

Ok so if you claim of
"RTDs are a gateway drink aimed pretty much exclusively at the female teenage market"
Am I to assume that you are looking for a gender specific solution?

The Veteran said...

Now you are being obtuse ... what i wanted was a serious discussion but I'm not getting it..

Noel said...

For beer if you drop the alcohol by .5 percent you can get away with it before it's noticed.
You could probably get away with 1 percent for RTD's before the market says nah.

RTD's are most popular for females between ages 16 and 25. After they have reached 25 many will be moving to wine.

Remove taxes from non alcoholic wines so they can afford to carry the preference with them into adulthood.
Serious enough.....Geez!

Anonymous said...

From Kiwi blog on Herald article.

"Sweet-tasting and high-strength “alcopops” have become the drink of choice for many young women. They take much of the blame for binge-drinking, and governments, unsurprisingly, are seeking to limit their consumption."

Targeting a particular form of alcohol is actually a dumb thing to do. Natural, not dumb. Far more harm is caused from straight spirits. Worrying about the 8% drinks, and ignoring the 13%, 20%, 40% and even 55% drinks is just kneejerk.

Noel said...

Sorry should have read LOW alcohol wines

The Veteran said...

Anon 4.21 ... the drinks you refer to are NOT the drink of choice of young females. I can only repeat the professional advice tendered to me by the police and health professionals ... that the consumption of RTDs causes disproportionately more problems than all others in what is a quite vulnerable adolescent group.

Targeting straight spirits will not solve this problem.

Anonymous said...

Agreed in spades Veteran. The infamous Bacardi breezers started it all. But it will only work as a combination of measures. You are reinventing the wheel as this conversation at the highest levels took place on the UK 14 years ago (they say NZ is ten years behind).
The first is education through the schools by Govt and the booze industry to remove the glamour from drinking to excess. the second is strict enforcement by local authorities and publicans themselves with stringent penalties for serving people who are inebriated or under age. It worked well years ago and will work now.

The drinking age should be raised back to 21 as the mental gulf between 18 and 21 is as great as between 12 and 15. After several bad experiences I refused to cater for weddings at my place if either of the happy couple was under 21 and the difference in behaviour (and damage) from guests was immense.

Lord Egbut

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Leg it, on this.occasion you are right on the money.

The Veteran said...

Egbut ... the standard penalty imposed by the Alcohol Regulatory & Licensing Authority (ARLA) in respect of an on-license that serves patrons who are inebriated or under age is suspension of the license for a minimum of one day for the first offence (being the same day of the week that the offence occurred on) and a 28 day suspension for the duty manager involved. An offense of this nature is also classified as a 'Holding' (quaint legal term). Second and subsequent offences and the penalties for both the licensee and the duty manager increase exponentially. Three holdings in three years and the license is cancelled, no ifs, buts or maybes ... the industry equivalent of the three strikes legislation in the Criminal Justice Act.

The same tariff is in force for stand-alone liquor outlets. For the likes of supermarkets the start point is 5 days acknowledging that they still able to trade minus alcohol sales.
Last month Countdown in Blenheim was hit with a 42 day suspension for selling alcohol to minors. Supermarkets cannot sell RTDs or spirits.

The police have the option, in serious cases, of laying a complaint in the District Court where the penalty laid down is a fine of not exceeding $10,000 and suspension of the license for a term of not more than 7 days.

Not sure how this regime stacks up against what is the norm in the UK and I would be interested in your advice on that.

Since the passing of the 2012 Act and the imposition of the new regime of penalties the number of enforcement applications dealt with by ARLA has been in decline. The message seems to be getting through.

In carrying out its statutory function the Authority has the powers of a Commission of Inquiry meaning it can summon witness, require documentation and award costs. Its decisions may be appealed to the High Court on points of law only.

Noel said...

Not sure raising the age to 21 is going to prove anything.
Longitudinal studies over 17 years found there was no difference in drinking patterns between 16 to 19 year olds and 21 to 23 year olds after the previous legal age change.

Raise the age and under age youth will simply return to past practises.

Noel said...

Research does suggest that 16 to 25 year old females have a higher percentage than males of he same age for A&E admissions.
But not far behind them are 30 to 60 year old men.

All research point out the New Zealand "drinking culture" as a precursor to teenage/adolescent drinking.

Instead of lowering the alcohol content of RTD lets change the excise on it along with other drinks and hit two birds with one stone.

Excise is there as a harm prevention measure. In that context remove it from any drink 2.5 and below but increase it for drinks above.

A major driver in teenage drinking is price.

We have a similar approach with tobacco where the consequence of continued use is going to cost the smoker.

The responsible teenage drinker, of which there a many are not penalised.

The Veteran said...

Noel ... why not both?

Paranormal said...

Realistically neither banning nor taxing will solve the problem. Inventive youthful minds will find a way around impositions.

Remember when Liarbour wanted to 'do something' and brought in the sherry tax? Youth and the booze companies just found a different way around it, but it left pensioners with increased costs for their tipple for overall no benefit.

The only thing that will work is to remove the desire to binge drink. Change the culture. It worked with drink driving it can work with binge drinking.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mr, eduction and education. Along with shaming outlets and patrons in the media. A wonderful photo used ten years ago in the UK showed a young woman on a mall bench with legs wide spread and unconscious.

Lord Egbut

Noel said...

Paranormal you are right. But a focus on 18 to 25 year old female RTD drinkers only isn't going to do that.

Lord UK 18 to 25 group has shown a decrease in the last decade but its not dramatic. Hospital adnissions,Veterans measure, remain the same.

Research in NZ suggests alcohol awareness education as a least useful tool so why is UK so different or is it just a perception?

Anonymous said...

There is no real consequence. Low alcohol drink consuumption will increase, as they did in Australia, with the new limits for drivers.

For the non drivers introduce part charges for hospital admissions on the grounds it's self inflicted.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to compare countries due to wage and pricing, population density, parental attitude and peer pressure. What works in one country may not work in a another.

If you start at the basic premise that an 18 year old female brain is not as developed as a 21 ear old female brain then you are half way there. The statistics of US states are quite clear. Those States with a legal drinking age of 21 have 50% less problems and issues than those states where it is 18.
It is within societies power to put this right but which political party will have the courage to dispossess some voters of their rights. Remind me again which party lowered the drinking age?

Lord Egbut

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful if this could be passed around and perhaps the Veteran might distribute the link next time he he takes the Damascus road. It might be difficult because his beloved National party against all the advice from the health professionals dropped the age from 20 to 18. Even NZ first was agin it.

Lord Egbut Nobacon