Chief Coroner Neil Maclean has called for warning labels on alcohol following the release of figures showing a surge in the number of alcohol related deaths.
In the eight years to 2008, the annual number of alcohol-related deaths investigated by the Coroner's Office increased by more than six times to 254. The provisional total for 2009 is 137.
Judge Maclean says binge drinking has emerged as a teenage rite of passage that some will not survive, though the problem is not just among young people.
He told Morning Report that while binge drinking is one of the direct causes of alcohol-related deaths, the major area is where alcohol has been a contributing factor.
Judge Maclean says alcohol seems to be playing an increasing role in deaths in New Zealand.
National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman says apart from the deaths investigated by a coroner, more than 1000 other people die each year as a result of accidents and diseases caused by excessive drinking.