Time to get real over alcohol

New Zealand should treat alcohol in the same way it treats other addictive drugs, according to a leading road safety campaigner.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, whose pioneering work on crash testing and seatbelts led to major changes in government policy, said today:

“It’s time to stop blaming the victims and start restricting the easy supply of alcohol, especially to young people. Alcohol is responsible for one quarter of road deaths and countless broken lives around the country.”

Matthew-Wilson called alcohol “the most dangerous drug in New Zealand” and called for major changes to the way it is sold and promoted. Alcohol is an addictive poison and should be treated as such, he says.

Alcohol is directly implicated in around one quarter of road deaths and 35% of all types of injury. The Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council’s annual survey of 12–17-year-olds showed that one quarter of 14–17-year-olds drink heavily and regularly.

A new study from Otago University's Christchurch School of Medicine shows a third of young New Zealanders admitted to having an alcohol problem.

A report by Clive Matthew-Wilson titled ‘Victims of Circumstance’ published at dogandlemon.com calls for alcohol to be treated in the same way as tobacco - tolerated but strongly discouraged.

“New Zealand’s major drug problem comes from alcohol, and most users are in complete denial,”

said Matthew-Wilson.

“If you look at the cold, hard statistics on alcohol-related deaths and social problems in the West, it’s immediately clear that alcohol is a far more dangerous drug than heroin, cocaine, speed and cannabis put together, yet alcohol is almost totally socially acceptable.”

“We predict, however, that if breweries were fined one million dollars for every person who drove drunk after consuming their alcohol, then the problem of alcohol abuse would drop away substantially overnight.”

“Contrast society’s treatment of alcohol with the current attitudes towards tobacco. While acknowledging an individual’s right to smoke, governments internationally are actively discouraging its use and heavily restricting access to tobacco products – especially sales to minors – and advertising.”

“Why the differing attitudes towards alcohol and tobacco? Of the two drugs, alcohol is arguably the more damaging.

“Perhaps the double standard is the result of the widespread popularity of alcohol among politicians. Or perhaps the liquor lobby simply has more money than the tobacco lobby.”