An outspoken drug expert, sacked by the British government for his views on alcohol, says New Zealand’s Government needs to stop bowing to the alcohol industry if we want to change our binge drinking culture.
Professor David Nutt says the Government’s decision not to lower the drink-drive limit is a cop-out and we can easily fix our binge drinking culture if our politicians allow it.
“Unquestionably it would work, we know it works so there is no issue about it so this is not a scientific decision, it is simply some kind of political cop-out.”
Even the army struggles to contain the binge drinking culture. Today the head of Linton Army Camp said young soldiers are arriving from a culture of teenage alcohol abuse.
Already 34 soldiers at the base have faced drinking related court charges in the past six months.
It is this culture that Mr Nutt says can and should change – he says alcohol is about as bad a drug as you can get.
“If alcohol was invented today, it would be illegal,” he said.
MR Nutt says the alcohol industry is powerful and governments in the UK and here in New Zealand back down to it.
“We should have a public outcry to the costs of passive drinking – the accidents, costs of hospital admissions for drinkers that come onto our shoulders,” he says.
“Lawyers should start suing the drinks industry for making people dependent on the drug.”
Mr Nutt says the public are brainwashed into thinking drugs like cannabis and ecstasy are more harmful, when they’re not.
“I was the government’s chief advisor and I was sacked for saying that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol,” he says.
“A lot of politicians, even though they knew the truth about drugs, are terrified to tell the truth because they think they won’t get elected.”
Mr Nutt’s sacking made international headlines and he stands by the fact that alcohol killing the most people is when its harm can be most easily tackled.
He is giving a lecture at Christchurch’s University of Otago tonight, which includes his moderation plan to change a binge drinking culture.
Mr Nutt’s 21 point plan includes:
Stop selling alcohol in supermarkets
Make bars close earlier
Ban all alcohol advertising
Add warning notices to alcohol packages
Start public campaigns to make alcohol unfashionable
Mr Nutt says the New Zealand Government’s decision not to lower the drink-driving limit is weak and makes no sense and if they had lowered the limit from 80mcg to 50mcg, road deaths would be reduced by up to two-thirds.
Anti-alcohol campaigners are welcoming Mr Nutt’s views.
“We’ve had 20 years of liberalisation and clearly that hasn’t worked. Clearly that has lead to increased harms,” says Alcohol Health Watch spokeswoman Christine Rogan.
Mr Nutt says society’s attitude to booze could be changed just as quickly as society’s attitude to smoking.
TUE, 03 AUG 2010 6:00P.M.
By Juliet Speedy
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