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Anger at Cut-Price Alcopops

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8. Anger at Cut-Price Alcopops

Bay of Plenty Times
September 11, 2007

Alcoholic drinks are being advertised for as little as $1 in Tauranga, angering alcohol rehabilitation workers who say it's "cheaper than Coke" and encourages young people to binge drink.

Two liquor stores visited by the Bay of Plenty Times sold premixes - known as ready to drink or RTDs - at four for $4 while another sold 24 rum premixes for $24.

A standard 5 per cent alcohol RTD has a similar alcohol content to the average can of beer.

The sales pitch has provoked outrage from people trying to combat alcohol abuse.

Dave Ludlow from Drug-Arm Tauranga said it was a deliberate attempt from the alcohol industry to groom kids to graduate from soft drinks to alcoholic drinks.

"It's ridiculous, it's cheaper than Coke. Why would our kids want to buy a soft drink when they can buy RTDs illegally?" he said.

"They're very sweet, it's like drinking pop."

Mr Ludlow said with such cheap RTDs it was easy for underage people to access alcohol on a limited budget.

He said most did not have a problem buying it.

"When you see the massive volume and production of RTDs, the liquor industry probably wouldn't admit to it but it is aimed at the younger end of the market. For $10 they can get really drunk and they can afford to do that Friday, Saturday, Sunday."

Mr Ludlow said tax should be increased on alcohol to prevent young people from being able to afford it and help pay for the problems alcohol caused in the community.

"I think we need to look at probably doubling the cost of alcohol ... for the amount that it's cost for the problems in our community."

Mr Ludlow would also like to see alcohol removed from places young people frequented like The Warehouse and supermarkets. He also called for a ban on advertising alcohol.

David Benton, the director of the Hanmer Clinic - a Bay drug rehabilitation centre - agreed cheap booze encouraged binge drinking.

"Anything that caters to the general pattern of binge drinking in New Zealand concerns me," he said. "It's certainly making alcohol readily available at a pretty cheap cost - it's cheaper than a bottle of milk or a can of Coke."

Mr Benton said New Zealand's drinking culture meant it was socially acceptable to drink to excess.

"[The prices are] pandering to a market that wants to buy cheap alcohol and buy a lot of it," he said.

Mr Benton pointed out there was considerable research that showed how alcohol advertising influenced children and young people with positive perceptions of alcohol.

"Alcohol advertising and other marketing is reaching children and teenagers under the age of 18, whether or not this is intended by advertisers or the alcohol industry," he said.

Sergeant Nigel McGlone from Western Bay of Plenty Liquor Licensing Unit said there were issues around the promotion of alcohol that police were looking at.

"I know there are some outfits where you can buy a single one, single beers or single RTDs which to me doesn't really comply with the spirit of the [Liquor Licensing] Act," he said.

"We're working on things with off licences and how they're run and community issues as well, not just on a compliance level, things they have to do, but on what they can do."

Mr McGlone said police could not get involved in setting prices for alcohol but could suggest what action liquor stores should take.

"If they run a promotion which could be seen to be geared towards young people, they're not the sort of promotions that should be done," he said.

"Everything comes down to being responsible and having a bit of forethought."

But Tauranga liquor stores selling cheap RTDs have defended their actions.

The Mill Liquorsave general manager Stephen Fromont said he did not believe selling or advertising cheap RTDs encouraged underage people to drink.

"There's not a lot we can do about that morally. All we can do is try and police the Sale of Liquor Act.

"We have a moral obligation to police it - it's up to Parliament ... we support that, we are very strong advocates [of the act]."

Brookfield Liquor King manager Jason Torrance acknowledged the store's billboard advertising $1 RTDs could appeal to youth but was not specifically aimed at them.

"It's quite possible that it would encourage young people but it's not put out there solely for the younger people," he said.

"It's a deal that we have out there to get people into the shop."

Mr Torrance said when the shop gets good deals from suppliers he likes to be able to pass that on to customers.

However, Lion Nathan Corporate Affairs Director Liz Read said suppliers did not set the price and retailers could sell RTDs as cheaply or expensively as they chose.

"In many instances they (retailers) set the price that's lower than the price we charge them," she said.

She pointed out it was the responsibility of the retailer to maintain the requirements of the Liquor Licensing Act.

"The issue with price doesn't change the access that underage people might or might not have to alcohol."


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