Trends in affordability of alcohol in New Zealand

20 Apr 2018

Increasing the price of cheap alcohol, such as through excise taxes or minimum pricing schemes, is an important tool in a package of measures that governments can use to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. This report investigates trends over time in alcohol prices and affordability in New Zealand to inform government policy and decision making on the price of alcohol for sale in New Zealand.

The report shows that alcohol has become more affordable in New Zealand, due to incomes increasing more than alcohol prices. It now takes a very short amount of time for an average worker to earn enough to buy sufficient alcohol to put themselves (and others) at risk of injury and harm. The Health Promotion Agency’s low-risk drinking advice recommends no more than five standard drinks on any single drinking occasion for men, and no more than four standard drinks for women, to reduce the risk of injury. In 2017, it would take just over 10 minutes for an average worker to earn enough to buy six standard drinks of the cheapest advertised alcohol (and exceed the low-risk drinking advice for both men and women).

New Zealand and international evidence has found that lower prices of alcohol are associated with heavy drinking and that heavy drinkers are more likely to drink cheaper alcohol. Addressing alcohol affordability through alcohol pricing policies would reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. Any such policies need to account for increases in incomes, and increases in alcohol affordability, to have maximum impact.