Newspaper Icon10 Dec 2020: E-News

View this email in your browser



Welcome to the last e-news for 2020. We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year.
A huge 'thank you' to everyone we have worked with during this very challenging year. 



New drinking stats out



The results from the annual New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS) are now available. This is the largest survey on the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. The Ministry of Health survey normally collects data from July to June, and typically ~13,000 adults participate.

Due to COVID-19, three months are missing from the data collection for the 2019/20 NZHS as data collection ceased on March 19, 2020. No adjustments or imputations have been done to account for the impact this has had on the results. The sample size for the 2019/20 NZHS was 9,699, with a 75% response rate.

The Ministry of Health looked at the indicators over the past surveys to determine how many showed seasonal variation, and therefore caution to be applied to the results. Alcohol use in the total population did not show variation; this may reflect the AUDIT questions asking participants to recall behaviours over the past 12 months.


  • 20.9% of NZ adults (15+ yrs) were classified as hazardous drinkers (= 838,000)
  • No change in overall prevalence of hazardous drinking since 2015/16
  • Significant inequities persist – experienced disproportionately by wāhine Māori who reported a hazardous drinking prevalence that was 2.2 times higher than non-Māori women (Māori men 1.6 times higher than non-Māori men)
    • Men: 43.7% Māori, 34.3% Pacific, 31.4% European/other, 7.7% Asian
    • Women: 29.2% Māori, 16.1% Pacific, 14.0% European/other, 2.7% Asian

Significant increases in hazardous drinking were found among 15-17 year olds (from 6.3% in 2018/19 to 11.6% in 2019/20) and among 45-54 year olds (22.1% in 2018/19 to 27.7% in 2019/20), but we need to look at further surveys to determine if this is a real trend or random fluctuation.


  • 81.5% of New Zealanders reported drinking (=3,263,000)
  • No change overall since last year, but significantly higher than in 2014/15 (79.5%)

What is becoming apparent is that more Pacific and Asian women are choosing to drink – whilst previously these groups were majority abstainers, they are now majority drinkers.

Click on the button below to download PowerPoint slides that we have created for your use. Also refer to our previous e-news, where we wrote about the latest binge drinking findings from the Youth’19 Rangatahi Survey.

NOTE: The above statistics are pre-COVID. For research on drinking patterns during and post-lockdown, please click here. Of significant concern, the findings showed that the proportion of Māori drinkers that increased their alcohol use (when compared to pre-lockdown) during lockdown (22%) did not reduce following the end of lockdown (22% in Level 1). Actions are urgently needed to address these inequities.


Click here for PowerPoint slides of trends in drinking




FASD awareness going virtual



Whilst 2020 will go down in history for the devastating consequence of the Covid-19 virus, the year also provided an opportunity to explore innovative ways of working together. Enter Zoom, or often ‘Zui’ in Aotearoa - a virtual hui. 

In November, the FASD Care Action Network (FASD-CAN) were able to hold a successful Zui for members and others to mark FASD Awareness Month, with multiple speakers discussing aspects of FASD action. They even held their AGM virtually! 

Also marking FASD Awareness down-under, and to make up for the cancelled FASD Australasian Conference planned for November in Sydney, several virtual conference sessions were held and recorded. Thanks to a lot of organising behind the scenes by a dedicated few, and some excellent and brave contributors, these virtual events attracted hundreds of individual registrations and received very positive feedback.

The FASD Hub in Australia has become host to all of the recorded conference sessions and graphic illustrations. Click the links below to view:

While some face-to-face gatherings are returning, more virtual events are planned for 2021. We have found that Zui can certainly reach a whole lot more people, in their own time and space. 



Broadcasting Standards Authority upholds
Alcohol Healthwatch’s complaint



Alcohol Healthwatch welcomes the decision of the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) to uphold our complaint regarding a MediaWorks radio station broadcast that advocated excessive alcohol consumption, in breach of Standard 7 of The Radio Code.

MediaWorks agreed with our initial complaint that the broadcast had breached standards, but Alcohol Healthwatch was disappointed with the limited nature of the response. 

Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch, Dr Nicki Jackson, in a statement said that: “We strongly believe that the seriousness of excessive alcohol consumption in New Zealand warrants further action being taken. Public acknowledgement of the breach of standards is essential. Communities need to be informed when standards have been breached, and broadcasters need to be sincere in taking responsibility for upholding their own standards. Without a public statement, communities could consider it acceptable for radio stations to promote heavy drinking. This further normalises our harmful drinking culture.”

MediaWorks was ordered to broadcast a statement containing a summary of the BSA’s decision, and to pay the Crown costs of $1000. The BSA media release is here.



Community action removes alcohol billboard
opposite Ōtāhuhu College



Last month volunteers with Communities Against Alcohol Harm noticed a large alcohol billboard had been placed about 50 metres across the road from Ōtāhuhu College, outside a bakery and a dairy frequented by school students. 

Communities Against Alcohol Harm submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority arguing that the placement of alcohol advertising so close to a school was not consistent with their Code. It was also noted that the billboard site had a history of hosting alcohol advertisements over the years. 

While a decision has not yet been published by the Advertising Standards Authority, the billboard was removed within days of the complaint being submitted. 

This is the sixth known case of an alcohol billboard near a school being challenged in 2020. We believe that rather than placing the onus on communities to make complaints (against a voluntary Code that has weak protections concerning placement of advertising), strong statutory regulation of alcohol advertising is needed to protect our communities. Health must be prioritised over profits. If you would like assistance/advice on taking action on this issue, feel free to contact us.




World Health Organization seeks feedback on the development of a new Action Plan (2022-2030)



The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a consultation on an Action Plan (2022-2030) to effectively implement the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol. Alongside other Non-Government Organisations, we support the call for a legal instrument for alcohol control to support Member States to withstand the industry’s opposition to regulation and to prioritise national action on alcohol. Alcohol remains the only psychoactive substance that lacks legally-binding instruments at the international level.

Submissions close at 11:59am Monday, 14 December (NZ time).

Our submission on the consultation document recommends a stronger focus on the three most pro-equity alcohol policies (i.e. raising price, reducing availability and restricting advertising). We also call for greater measures to protect policy-making from commercial influence. Last but not least, an equity lens must be made more explicit and considered across all decisions and actions if the WHO is truly committed to improving Indigenous peoples' health.



Alcohol Healthwatch’s new campaign
'Uncap our Potential' is gaining momentum



Uncap our Potential is a new campaign that calls on New Zealanders to truly imagine the real and endless benefits in our country when we have less alcohol harm. Everything we deeply care about will start to improve. For this generation and the next.

Three months since its official launch, the campaign has gained momentum with >1,000 video views and >300 likes for the campaign's Facebook Page.

We are currently inviting more New Zealanders to share their vision of what the benefits of less alcohol harm would look like. We have recently heard from children, those working in cancer services and those taking action in their communities. We invite you to share your vision too. We have made it super easy for you to provide us with a statement, photo or video! Together, we can identify actions and policies that can effectively reduce alcohol harm in our country. 




Reduction in alcohol-related deaths in Scotland
since the implementation of MUP in May 2018



Statistics just released in Scotland show a 10% decrease in alcohol-related deaths, down from 1,136 in 2018 to 1,020 in 2019. The 2019 data represents the first substantial decrease in recent years, after a period of increases since 2012.

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland rose rapidly between 1992 and 2006, coinciding with increases in off-licence sales of alcohol (including supermarket sales), driving increases in alcohol affordability.

The 2019 reduction in alcohol-related deaths represents ‘cautious optimism’ following the implementation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in May 2018. Random fluctuation from year to year is always a possible explanation. Longer term trends are needed to provide stronger evidence of MUP's positive effects.



More Emergency Department research showcases harm



In our April e-news, we highlighted the excellent research from Counties Manukau District Health Board that documented the burden from alcohol-related Emergency Department (ED) presentations and admissions to Middlemore Hospital. In 2018, the 4,217 ‘alcohol-involved ED encounters' and 2,877 ‘alcohol-involved hospital admissions' were estimated to cost just under $15 million, although using other cost estimation methods the true cost ranged from $21.0 million to $25.8 million.

Two recent reports have further documented the burden. The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) have published their annual snapshot survey, quantifying alcohol’s burden (point-prevalence) on EDs in Australia and New Zealand on a weekend night in December. On Saturday, 21 December 2019, at 2.00am local time (i.e. effectively Friday night), 113 EDs in Australia and 19 in New Zealand participated. 

On this night, 16% of ED presentations in New Zealand were alcohol-related, compared to 13% in Australia. You can read the media release here and survey report here.

As stated in the report, alcohol and other drug harm represents significant challenges for the acute health system, affecting ED function, significantly impacting staff wellbeing, and exerting a negative impact on the care of other patients. To effectively reduce harm, the ACEM recommends evidence-based measures that increase the price of alcohol, reduce availability and restrict alcohol advertising. They further recommend introducing legislation to phase out alcohol sponsorship of sport.

In addition, the Southern District Health Board has produced a series of six fantastic reports of alcohol-related ED presentations to Southland Hospital, Lakes District Hospital and Dunedin Hospital in 2018 and 2019. They are available here. Across the three hospitals, the findings showed that:

  • 50-70% of presentations were among 18-14 year olds and 25-34 year olds;
  • 10-15% of presentations were due to someone else’s alcohol use;
  • 10-28% were admitted to hospital wards; and
  • 43-62% presentations were triaged as immediately, imminently or potentially life-threatening.

As huge District Health Board deficits are published and calls for increased funding for ambulance services are made, evidence-based tools exist to reduce the avoidable burden from alcohol harm. Strong public health action on alcohol can make a huge difference to improving the physical and mental health of all New Zealanders, reducing the cost burden on health and ambulance services, and improving staff wellbeing. And that’s great for all of us!



Launch of Australia’s new
‘Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol’



Following four years of extensive research and consultation, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has published their revised guidelines. Based on the most current scientific evidence, the new guidelines are as follows:

  • To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. By following this recommendation, healthy adults would have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.
  • To reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
  • To prevent harm from alcohol to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol.
  • For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

An excellent summary of the guidelines can be found in The Conversation. And New Zealand’s low-risk drinking advice is available here.



Summer School:
Hand in hand – tobacco, alcohol and policy measures



The outstanding University of Otago 2021 Public Health Summer School will offer 24 short courses (1–2 days long) presented by an exceptional faculty of public health academics and practitioners. Read the courses on offer here.

One exciting new course is “Hand in hand – tobacco, alcohol and policy measures”, convened by Professor Janet Hoek on Wednesday, 17 February. This course explores the paired behaviours of smoking and alcohol use; two key issues that drive health inequities early in the life course. Too often we view and act on them separately – but this course looks at their synergies, and explores how we can join up our efforts to reduce harm.  Hope to see you there! Early bird registrations close Tuesday, 22 December 2020.



Research updates



There have been so many wonderful papers published since our last e-news. Key publications in alcohol policy are listed below.  Email Alcohol Healthwatch if you do not have access to any of the full-text versions below.


Online alcohol delivery is associated with heavier drinking during the first pandemic restrictions
Mental health 2016/17: New Zealand Health Survey
Oh My (Prof Peter Crampton editorial on inequity)


The Urgent Need to Advance Alcohol Marketing Regulation to Protect Children
Social media alcohol advertising among underage minors: effects of models’ age
Alcohol use disorders, beverage preferences and the influence of alcohol marketing
Alcohol marketing and social media: A challenge for public health control
Characteristics and Effectiveness of Alcohol Website Age Gates Preventing Underage User Access
Under the radar: Harmful industries digital marketing to Australian children

The Potential Health Impact of an Alcohol Minimum Unit Price in Québec
Changes in the Price of Alcohol and Effect on Youth Drinking and in Different Socio-Economic Groups
Impact of reducing alcohol consumption through price‐based policies on cancer incidence
Small Change: Alcohol at pocket-money prices

Prevalence studies
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores in the Australian population (2007–2016)
Alcohol Consumption among Samoan Adults in 2010: Patterns, Correlates and Health Implications

Emergency Departments
Alcohol‐related harm in emergency departments: linking to subsequent hospitalizations to quantify under‐reporting of presentations
Alcohol and methamphetamine harm in NZ EDs

Licensing and regulation
Barriers to addressing alcohol‐related harm through planning and licensing systems
Applying a complex systems perspective to alcohol consumption and the prevention of alcohol‐related harms in the 21st century
Public opinion and experiences of crime two and five years following the implementation of a targeted regulation of licensed premises in Newcastle, Australia

Prevention of Alcohol‐Exposed Pregnancies and FASD Among Pregnant and Postpartum Women: A Systematic Review
A Systematic Review of Interventions to Improve Mental Health and Substance Use Outcomes for Individuals with Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and FASD
Patterns of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Alcohol‐Related Dysmorphic Features
Report on FASD research action in Australia

Lifetime perspective on alcohol and brain health
Association of Alcohol-Induced Loss of Consciousness and Overall Alcohol Consumption With Risk for Dementia
Severe harm from others' drinking: A population‐based study on sex differences and the role of one's own drinking habits
The influence of child maltreatment on substance or alcohol use in 30‐year‐old adults: A birth cohort study

Drinking to Cope During COVID‐19 Pandemic
Impact of COVID-19 Confinement on Alcohol Purchases in Great Britain
Psychological Stressors Predicting Increased Drinking During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Longitudinal National Survey Study of Workers in Finland 
Purchasing, consumption, demographic and socioeconomic variables associated with shifts in alcohol consumption during the COVID‐19 pandemic
Second, third, fourth COVID‐19 waves and the ‘pancession’: We need studies that account for the complexities of how the pandemic is affecting alcohol consumption in Australia
Changes in alcohol consumption associated with social distancing and self‐isolation policies triggered by COVID‐19 in South Australia: a wastewater analysis study

Health promotion 
The failure of health promotion for marginalised populations

Industry submissions on alcohol in the context of Australia's trade and investment agreements
Alcoholic beverages in trade agreements: Industry lobbying and the public health interest
The alcohol industry ‘smart affordability’ strategy is to reach the poor

Warning labels
Effect of alcohol label designs with different pictorial representations of alcohol content and health warnings on knowledge and understanding of Low Risk Drinking Guidelines
Use as directed: do standard drink labels on alcohol containers help consumers drink (ir)responsibly?





Don’t forget to encourage others to visit our website to sign up to our e-news!

Also join us on Twitter and Facebook

If you would like to receive our daily media clippings on alcohol-related stories, email Suzanne at



           Floor 1, 27 Gillies Ave, Newmarket, Auckland 1023, PO Box 99407, Newmarket, Auckland 1149 
Ph. 09 520 7036 Feel free to join us on Facebook and Twitter






You're receiving this email because you signed up to receive the news from Alcohol Healthwatch. 
Copyright © 2020 Alcohol Healthwatch All rights reserved.
Want to change how you receive these emails? Email to unsubscribe.

DISCLAIMER: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this e-bulletin, Alcohol Healthwatch accepts no legal liability or responsibility as to the accuracy, content or use of any information made available through this e-bulletin. All links to other websites are provided for convenience only. Alcohol Healthwatch accepts no legal liability or responsibility as to the content, accuracy or use of information posted by other websites. The production of this e-news is funded by the Ministry of Health.