National Alliance calls on parties to make alcohol harm an election issue

Tuesday 10 August, 2010

The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA), a coalition of 32 health and community organisations from across Australia, has today called on the major parties to make an election commitment to reduce the $15 billion toll of alcohol-related harm through pricing and labelling reforms, and regulation of marketing.

Professor Mike Daube, Chair of the NAAA and President of the Public Health Association of Australia, said while there have been promises on other community issues, there has been little focus or even discussion about action to reduce the massive toll of alcohol harm in our community.

"This is particularly disappointing when alcohol is such a widespread problem, with young people increasingly drinking to get drunk, as well as the increase in violence in the community and lost productivity in the workplace," Prof. Daube said.

The President of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Andrew Pesce added: "The AMA considers that a lot more can be done to reduce the harms of excess alcohol use, especially among teenagers and young people. It is time for the community to increase its focus on this important issue."

A recent survey of Australians revealed that 84 per cent of people are concerned about the impact of alcohol on the community .

The NAAA is calling on the major political parties to support a range of policies that will reduce alcohol-related harm in Australian communities, including:

1. Pricing and taxation:

  • Reform the current dysfunctional alcohol taxation system;
  • Introduce a volumetric tax, with tax increasing for products with higher alcohol volumes;
  • An overall increase in alcohol taxation;
  • Increases in the real price of alcohol over time;
  • A proportion of alcohol taxation revenue to be allocated to reduce alcohol harm in the community.

2. Labelling:

  • Introduce health advisory labels on all alcohol products.
  • Labels should be large in size and the health information should rotate over time.
  • Labels should be complemented with similar information displays at the point-of-sale.

3. Marketing and promotions:

  • Protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing by restricting alcohol advertising on television during live sporting events.
  • Strengthen the regulation of alcohol advertising;
  • Introduce a levy on alcohol advertising to fund prevention programs.

On taxation, David Templeman, CEO of the Australian Alcohol and Other Drugs Council (ADCA) said: "The existing alcohol tax system requires an urgent overhaul. Currently, taxation of beer and spirits is based on the percentage of alcohol, but wine is taxed on its perceived value. This means that cask wine, which is just as alcoholic as bottled wine, can be as cheap as a can of soft drink."

"Taxation is a proven strategy to reduce alcohol consumption and associated health problems. We strongly support a push to tax all alcoholic beverages on an increasing scale, by the alcohol percentage per litre."

"The evidence indicates that even quite small changes in pricing can have significant public health benefits, for individuals and the whole community," said Mr Templeman.

CEO of VicHealth and NAAA Co-Chair Todd Harper, added: "It makes sense that tax should increase for products with higher alcohol, which of course create more health problems in the community. Taxation of alcohol should be based on the principle that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity - it is a product responsible for violence, addiction, accidents, ill-health and death."

Jane Martin, senior policy advisor at Cancer Council Victoria, said the long-term effects of alcohol were less publicised but serious. "Last year, 1300 Australians died from cancer caused by alcohol. If the NAAA's policies had been in place, some of these deaths could have been prevented."

A report from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia, estimated that a volumetric tax scheme would increase annual tax revenue by $492 million a year.

As of August 2010, the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol consists of 32 organisations from across Australia:

Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA), Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AERF), Alcohol Policy Coalition (Vic), Anglicare Australia, Australian Drug Foundation (ADF), Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM), Australian Medical Association, Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA), Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD), Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), Cancer Council Australia, Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Australia, DRUG ARM Australasia, Kidney Health Australia, National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), National Drug Research Institute (NDRI, Curtin University), National Heart Foundation, National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC), Public Health Advocacy Institute (WA), Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Ted Noffs Foundation, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre, Uniting Church, VicHealth and university groups.

Updated: 10 Aug, 2010