Alcohol is our mostly widely used recreational drug and causes significant harm to individuals, whānau and communities.

The way alcohol is viewed, sold, supplied and marketed in New Zealand influences how much and the way people drink alcohol. Through changing these areas we can reduce the harm caused by alcohol and improve the health of every person living in our region.

Explore the impact of alcohol on our community, and how we can prevent the harm it causes.

Alcohol-related harms are both:

  • Immediate – impacting rates of hospitalisations, crime, violence, accidents and injury, traffic crashes and death by suicide; and
  • Long-term – increasing rates of addiction, mental health problems, diseases like cancer, stroke and cirrhosis, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Alcohol harm disproportionately impacts Māori and Pacific peoples, young people and those living in lower socio-economic areas.

  • Alcohol has a long-term impact on the health of individuals. Alcohol is the fourth largest risk factor for health loss in New Zealand after obesity, smoking and high blood pressure (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2017).
  • Drinking habits cause harm to individuals and those around them.
  • Alcohol harm disproportionately impacts Māori and Pasifika communities. Māori, Pacific men, young people (aged 18-24) and those living in lower socio-economic areas are more likely to have high rates of hazardous drinking (Ministry of Health, 2017).
  • Auckland has higher levels of alcohol-related harm than the rest of New Zealand.
  • Auckland has a higher rate of late night assaults. Between midnight and 3.59am, the Auckland rate is 38% higher than the national rate, and the city's assault rate from 4am to 6.59am rate is 41% higher (Huckle, 2016).
  • The cost of alcohol-related harm is increasing year-on-year and significantly outweighs excise tax generated. Alcohol-related harm in New Zealand is estimated to cost $7.5 billion per year (Nana G, 2018).
Promotion – how alcohol is marketed

Alcohol advertising and promotion normalises alcohol consumption and influences attitudes, knowledge and awareness of alcohol, particularly in young people and children. Evidence shows that exposure to alcohol advertising causes adolescents to take up drinking at an earlier age, and drink to a heavier extent.

  • People with alcohol-use disorder have a particular vulnerability to alcohol advertising as it induces craving and cues to drink through a conditioned response.
  • Children and young people are also at increased risk as they lack the ability to differentiate advertisements as marketing a product, or to make accurate judgements about them. Māori and Pacific children also have significantly higher exposure levels to alcohol advertising than European children.
  • Māori and Pacific communities are also over-represented in high-deprivation neighbourhoods and are more likely to encounter shop front marketing due to the higher density of off-licences in these areas.
  • Alcohol sponsorship of sports teams at different levels is widespread, exposing children to the promotion of alcohol from an early age. This normalises this harmful substance in their lives and increases their likelihood of drinking.


Hours - when you can buy alcohol

Trading hours contribute to alcohol related harm by increasing the hours that alcohol is available. A recent systematic review of 22 studies showed harm from alcohol increases when trading hours of on-licences are extended. Restrictions to trading hours for both on and off-licences were followed by decreases in assault, unintentional injury and drink-driving offences.


Density - the number and location of physical places that sell alcohol

Density of alcohol outlets has a significant impact on the level of alcohol-related harm in an area.


Price – the cost of alcohol, including offers and discounts, as well as price competition between different places selling alcohol

Raising alcohol prices is internationally recognised as an effective way to reduce alcohol related harm. Policies that increase the price of alcohol delay the start of drinking, reduce the volume consumed per occasion by young people and have a greater effect on heavy drinkers.


National Public Health Service - Northern Region has a statutory role in ensuring that the harms from excessive alcohol consumption are minimised across the region.

This includes:

  • Implementation and compliance of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012
    National Public Health Service - Northern Region is one of three enforcement agencies involved in the alcohol licensing application process for the metro-Auckland region (Tāmaki Makaurau). The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 requires the Medical Officer of Health, Council and New Zealand Police to report on all alcohol licence applications.
  • Data collection, monitoring and surveillance systems
    National Public Health Service - Northern Region collects data on alcohol availability and promotion to understand how alcohol is impacting our community and how we can reduce alcohol-related harm.
  • Informing policy and legislation
    We inform and engage decision makers to ensure policy and legislation reflects current evidence on alcohol and alcohol-related harm. Our focus is on reducing the risks for those experiencing the highest impact of alcohol-related harm, such as Māori, Pacific, young people and those living in lower socio-economic areas. We work collaboratively with Auckland Council, Alcohol Healthwatch, Hāpai te Hauora, NZ Police and other organisations in the Auckland region.

Last updated 25.3.2024

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
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