Alcohol tax reform will save lives and money

New economic modelling makes clear the substantial monetary and health benefits of a fairer alcohol tax regime and adds further weight to calls by the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) for an overhaul of Australia’s broken alcohol tax system.

“Australia’s current system for taxing alcohol is incoherent and flawed from both a public health and economic perspective: it favours the production and consumption of cheap alcohol, contributes to the growing burden of alcohol-related harms, and does not recoup the costs of these harms across the Australian community,” said Dr John Crozier, Co-Chair of the NAAA and Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Trauma Committee.

The economic modelling, undertaken by ACIL Allen Consulting and commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), shows that a ten percent increase to all alcohol excise, combined with changes that tax wine according the its alcohol content, would generate $2.9 billion in revenue and result in a 9.4 percent reduction in alcohol consumption.

“This modelling demonstrates that alcohol tax reform is both an economic and health imperative, with the potential to reduced alcohol-related harms, offset the economic costs that result from these harms, and contribute to Government revenue”, said Dr Crozier.

Reforming Australia’s alcohol taxation regime and replacing the WET with a volumetric tax has been supported by numerous economic and taxation experts and ten separate Government reviews.

“Urgent reform is needed to address the $36 billion in social and health costs that alcohol use causes each year,” said Mr Michael Moore, Co-Chair of NAAA and CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).

“As the Government grapples with the challenges of a budget deficit and shortfall in government revenue, alcohol tax reform has the potential to not only reduce the economic spill-over costs from alcohol harms, but to also generate the revenue needed to finance our health, education and service systems”, said Mr Michael Moore.

“It’s important to remember that we’re not just talking about lost tax revenue. Each year in Australia alcohol kills 5,500 Australians and hospitalises a further 157,000, exacting a substantial toll on communities and service systems. That toll could be reduced by abolishing the WET, and replacing it with a more equitable and efficient tax,” Mr Moore said.

“Alcohol taxation and pricing have been shown to be the most effective policy option for reducing alcohol-related harms, particularly among heavy drinkers and young people. Alcohol taxation reform is a major public health and social policy issue in this country and urgent action and leadership is required to improve health, restore quality of life, and save lives,” said Mr Moore.

 

ENDS

 

TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW WITH DR JOHN CROZIER PLEASE CONTACT:

Amy Kimber – 0437 144 050

 

TO ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MOORE PLEASE CONTACT:

Sophie Brown – 0421 749 608

Twitter: @ACTIONonALCOHOL

For pdf of media release: 160308 Alcohol tax reform will save lives and money_FINAL

 

 

Australia’s alcohol advertising regulations are a “disgrace”: weakened alcohol advertising rules prompt renewed calls for reform

A watering down of alcohol advertising regulations in Australia has prompted renewed criticism of Australia’s current system for regulation alcohol advertising on television from public health groups, alcohol policy experts and leading medical colleges.

As reported by MJA Insight, last Thursday the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) released a new joint Alcohol Policy, in which they called for the phasing out of all alcohol sports sponsorships and the ceasing of advertisements during live games and broadcasts until after 8.30pm. Accompanying the release of the joint policy, the RACP undertook a review of nine sports across six categories and found all were influenced by alcohol sponsorships and advertisements, either at the stadium or during television coverage.

The findings of the RACP review echo the findings of numerous reports and reviews of Australia’s alcohol advertising regulations, which have highlighted major loopholes and failure of existing regulations to protect children and young people from regular exposure to alcohol advertising, particularly in relation to televised sports broadcasts. Despite these consistent findings, alcohol advertising regulations were further watered down last year by the Federal government’s media watchdog, the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA)

According to MJA Insight, ACMA’s moves have prompted renewed calls for government intervention and strengthened regulations, including calls to abolish ACMA and replace the existing industry-led regulatory system with a truly independent and robust regulator.

For more information, go to the MJA Insight article at: https://www.mja.com.au/insight/2016/8/alcohol-advertising-rules-disgrace

“Nothing’s changed,” – 18 months on and violence in emergency departments across Australia is still too common

As the results of the largest survey of alcohol harm in Australasian emergency departments (EDs) is published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) has indicated that the levels of alcohol-fuelled violence remain unacceptable high, imposing a substantial burden on hospital resources and staff.

The survey, which was undertaken by ACEM over 18 months ago and involved 2002 ED clinical staff, revealed the devastating toll of alcohol-related harm on emergency department clinicians and patients. In the year preceding the survey, more than 90% of ED clinicians had experienced physical aggression from a patient affected by alcohol, with 42% experiencing this aggression weekly or monthly. Verbal aggression from patients affected by alcohol was also an ever-present part of clinical life for ED staff. This violence and aggression has wide-ranging impacts, affecting the care of other patients and the wellbeing of clinicians. Clinicians reported that frequent violence and aggression had a negative effect on their wellbeing, affecting staff retention and recruitment. Such violence and aggression also had adverse impacts on other patients and the effective operation of the ED, diverting hospital resources into the management of alcohol-affected patients, and disrupting or delaying care for other patients. Effects on the welfare of and care for other patients, particularly vulnerable groups, are further exacerbated by the disruptive and antisocial behaviours of alcohol-affected people in EDs.

Since the survey was undertaken, the introduction of lockout laws and other trading restrictions have resulted in improvements in some jurisdictions. However, much more needed to be done, with ACEM expressing concern today that alcohol-related violence and aggression continues to be a pervasive feature of emergency departments.

“The legislative action taken in New South Wales and recently in Queensland is commendable and it’s important to acknowledge that progress,” said ACEM President, Associate Professor Anthony Lawler. “But too many EDs in Australia and New Zealand are still suffering from the blight of alcohol. Since this work was done 18 months ago ACEM has completed further research – including an Australia Day survey, a 7-Day survey and a snapshot survey – and the data is clear: alcohol is still having a disproportionately severe impact on our EDs.”

The release of the MJA survey follows on from the recent visit by Ms Katherine Brown from the UK, who reported on a major survey of emergency workers in the UK. This report echoes the findings of the ACEM report and the experiences of other front-line services in Australia, with up to half of police, paramedic, ED and fire services time spent dealing with alcohol-related incidents. The UK report surveyed approximately 5,000 front-line service staff and found that police spent 53% of their time dealing with alcohol-related incidents, ambulance staff 37% and emergency department personnel 25%. The responses revealed a culture of fear and systematic abuse, with three quarters of police respondents and one in two ambulance crews injured in alcohol-related incidents. Between a third and half of all emergency service personnel reported they had suffered sexual harassment or abuse at the hands of intoxicated members of the public. Reflecting on the report and the parallels with Australia, Ms Brown argued that it is crucial that alcohol is not allowed to continue diverting public resources and to threaten community safety.

 

For further information on the MJA article and ACEM statement on the impact of alcohol-affected patients in emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand:

For further information about the UK Report on alcohol’s impact on emergency services:

Galaxy poll: Majority support for retention of NSW trading hour measures

21 February 2016

Polling has found more than two thirds of NSW residents support the continuation of the state government’s measures to reduce alcohol-related violence.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • More than two-thirds (68%) support the continuation of the NSW Government’s measures to reduce alcohol-related violence (including a 3am last drinks and a 1.30am lockout in Sydney, and a 10pm close for bottle shops selling takeaway alcohol across the state).
  • The majority of NSW residents believe Australia has a problem with alcohol (80%), and that more needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol (79%).
  • The majority (73%) of NSW residents believe that alcohol-related problems in Australia will either remain the same or get worse over the next five to ten years.
  • The majority of NSW residents do not believe that governments (54%), alcohol companies (70%) and pubs and clubs (61%) are doing enough to address alcohol misuse.
  • NSW residents support a number of policies to reduce alcohol-related harms including introducing a closing time for pubs, clubs and bars of no later than 3am (80%), and not allowing alcohol to be sold in supermarkets (64%).
  • More than one in four NSW residents have been affected by alcohol-related violence, with one in six (15%) reporting they have been a direct victim, and one in five stating that a family or friend had been affected by alcohol-related violence.

The survey, which was commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and conducted by Galaxy Research, involved a sample of 353 NSW residents.

View the survey report

Lancet review of substance use in young people highlights burden of alcohol among Australian teens

22 February 2016

A major global review of substance use in young people, published last week in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, confirms that adolescence is a critical period for developing substance use related problems which can affect later health outcomes, and highlights the need for more research and better prevention and intervention worldwide. In Australia, alcohol made up the largest burden among young people, with males being most affected.

The three-part series, led by NDARC Professor Louisa Degenhardt and Professor Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland and co-authored by UNSW Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Emily Stockings, reviewed the evidence for the current nature and patterns of substance use among young people around the world, the potential effects of adolescent substance use later in life, and the effectiveness of prevention, intervention, harm reduction and treatment.

Key findings:

Prevalence and harms

  • Alcohol and illicit drug use account for 14% of the total health harms affecting young people aged 20-24. In this age group in Australasia (Australia, New Zealand and PNG), alcohol and illicit drug use accounted for 22% of health harms.
  • Young adolescence is a period when substance use typically starts and patterns become established, and a large number of adverse health and social outcomes have been associated with substance use. This makes substance use in young people is an important public health concern.

Neurobiological significance of early use

  • Development continues well into the third decade of life and this has heightened the concern over the impact of adolescent use of alcohol and illicit drugs on cognitive and emotional development.
  • A range of studies have suggested that substance ease during adolescence can have a greater neuropsychological effect that substance use later in life, with some suggestion of an increased sensitivity to neurotoxic effects.

Opportunities for prevention

  • Policy interventions such as taxation, controls on minimum age and availability were found to be effective prevention and harm reduction measures for alcohol use.

To read the three papers of the series, click below:

  1. Prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, and treatment of substance use in young people
  2. Why young people’s substance use matters for global health
  3. Prevention, early intervention, harm reduction, and treatment of substance use in young people