Alcohol is a significant cause of disease, disability and social harm.

Toi Te Ora Public Health supports strategies to reduce harm related to alcohol consumption and especially excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use is deeply embedded in many societies including New Zealand. Significant widespread change will be required if we are to successfully address harm from alcohol consumption.

Decreased alcohol consumption would result in a healthier New Zealand population and lead to lower health care costs. Any consumption of alcohol has potential harmful effects, particularly for vulnerable populations such as young people and unborn children. Excessive use comes at a high cost through increased risk of accidental injury, violence, motor vehicle, crashes, cancer, mental health problems, alcohol addiction, and other alcohol-related disorders.

Alcohol and its effects

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Alcohol (Ethanol or Ethyl alcohol) is the ingredient found in beer, wine and spirits that makes people drunk. It is the most commonly used recreational drug in New Zealand.

Drinking alcohol has many harmful short and long-term effects for individuals and for society.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol in one sitting can cause drowsiness, slowed breathing, coma and even death.

Drinking alcohol over many years also carries risks. Alcohol is a “carcinogen,” it causes cancer in a similar way that tobacco and radiation exposure does. It is linked to mouth, throat, bowel, liver and breast cancer.

Alcohol also has many other harmful effects such as mental health issues, alcohol dependence or addiction, liver disease, heart disease and injury from road traffic accidents and violence.  Consuming alcohol while pregnant can cause Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Below are some useful links to help you find out about the harm alcohol might be causing you and what to do if you want to make a change:

The World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health websites also provide comprehensive information on alcohol and its effects.

Effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy

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Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a lifelong disability caused by exposure to alcohol while in the womb. In Aotearoa New Zealand, it is estimated that between 1,800 and 3,000 babies are born with FASD every year.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol which can be consumed during pregnancy. The whole community has a responsibility to support alcohol free pregnancies.

The resources below provide more information about alcohol harm during pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD):


What we do at Toi Te Ora Public Health

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Toi Te Ora Public Health contributes to the regulation of local alcohol sale and supply and promote strategies to reduce harm caused by alcohol through:

  • Researching and evaluating strategies to reduce harm from alcohol to the population.
  • Supporting community groups and healthcare providers to reduce alcohol related harm and health inequalities.
  • Helping to enforce the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 – monitoring licensed premises, submitting on alcohol-related issues to regional councils and government and helping the community have their say about local alcohol licensing.

Toi Te Ora Public Health also actively participates in the following groups and coalitions:

Or you can contact us for more information or to make a complaint about licensed premises.

How to take action in your community - reducing harm from alcohol

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For information on how to make a submission about alcohol, object to an alcohol licence or influence your local alcohol policy view the Health Promotion Agency's guide to taking action or Toi Te Ora Public Health's submission guide.

Below are links to the various district licensing committees in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes areas.  These provide information on alcohol licensing laws and making complaints. 

If the council has a local alcohol policy, this is also listed below.  A local alcohol policy is a set of decisions made by a council in consultation with its community about the sale and supply of alcohol in its area. Local alcohol policies are optional. Councils are not required to have one, although most have chosen to.


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