This Stuff article makes an interesting read and critiques alcohol control measures in the current law. It argues that recommendations in the 2010 Law Commission report, Alcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm, which were aimed at reducing the effects of alcohol misuse on society, haven’t been implemented. 

Those at the forefront of alcohol harm prevention say that the significant harm caused by alcohol needs to be addressed through a range of measures. In particular, former Prime Minister and Law Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer has been outspoken about the government’s failure to implement some recommendations such as regulation of alcohol advertising and sponsorship and raising the prices.

I agree with the views shared by Robert Brewer (Chief executive of Spirits New Zealand) in the article. There is no doubt that banning alcohol advertising and sponsorship would result in a drop in drinking “to a certain extent”  - but whether it would address the issue of harmful drinking, is a different question and that is the purpose of the new law. 

Under the current regime, section 237 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 prohibits the irresponsible promotion of alcohol by anyone in business. For example, supermarkets and grocery stores are now required to limit the display and advertising of alcohol to a single non-prominent area of their store.  Similarly, bottle stores are not allowed to advertise products on windows where members of the general public can see them from outside.  Their advertising is limited to display the name and price of the product.

Under the former 1989 Act, the restrictions related to alcohol promotions were only relevant to licensees and/or managers.  Section 237 is completely new in the sense that it is aimed at everyone and is not restricted to licensee or manager.  A person in business commits an offence if he/she encourages people, or likely to encourage people to consume alcohol to an excessive extent regardless of the fact that it is within a licensed premises or at any other place.

It is now an offence to promote or advertise discounts on alcohol that are 25% or more below the normal price and this is the closest Parliament was prepared to move towards controlling alcohol prices under the Act.

In my view, the current law provides sufficient measures to minimise alcohol-related harm in the community. Section 237 plays an important role in maintaining the object of the Act because the penalties under this section have been doubled from those under the previous legislation. Suspension of a licence is now a real possibility where this was not possible under the former Act.  

The Advertising Standards Authority is currently undertaking a review of the rules around alcohol promotion. The Authority has invited the public to make submissions in respect of its review, with the closing date being 23 August 2019.

If you have any questions about how you should advertise your alcoholic products and whether it meets the requirements under the law, please feel free to contact us for further advice.


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