Real Action On Alcohol

The drug that causes the most harm to New Zealand society – by a long way – is alcohol. TOP is serious about reducing harm from alcohol.


The framework for regulating alcohol has been relaxed over the last decade or two.

However alcohol is causing an immense amount of harm. It is responsible for 4% of avoidable deaths – that is 600-800 people per year – and around $6b of total costs to society. Half of those deaths come from injuries such as violence and car crashes.

TOP will raise duties on alcohol and raise the legal age of alcohol purchase to 20 years.

The Problem

  • On weekends, around 2 in 3 injury-related admissions to Accident and Emergency are because of alcohol.
  • Alcohol has a huge impact on people’s lives far beyond the resulting police and hospital bills; it is also a major driver of sexual offending and family violence.
  • Compared to cannabis, alcohol creates more than four times the total harm. 

TOP's approach

  • The Opportunities Party (TOP) recommends increasing the legal age for alcohol purchase to 20 years.
  • TOP will increase the price of alcohol by an average of 10% through excise tax.
  • The $300m revenue from this will be used to provide a much-needed injection of funds into community-based youth mental health support and drug and alcohol treatment.

International and local studies have set out the key actions that are needed.  The two main areas that require urgent attention to reduce alcohol harm are the legal drinking age and the excise duty.

The legal drinking age was reduced from 20 to 18 in 1999 and there is evidence that this has increased harm, particularly by lowering the ‘de facto’ drinking age to 14-17.

The excise duty on alcohol has not been increased in years, so alcohol has become much more affordable, driving an increase in use.

Of available actions to reduce alcohol related harm, tightening alcohol sponsorship and marketing has the weakest evidence behind it. TOP will keep a watching brief on the evidence base in this area.

Click here to read the research

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