Prevention agency would save Australian taxpayers in alcohol clean-up

Tuesday 26 October, 2010

By passing the nation's first National Preventive Agency bill, the Federal Government could speed up action on alcohol and save Australian taxpayers from footing the $15billion clean-up bill says the Alcohol Policy Coalition.

The bill will be debated in Parliament from 2pm today.

"Alcohol abuse is costing Australian taxpayers $15billion each year, so investment in proven preventative measures will not only benefit our health and quality of life, but also reduce the huge burden on the taxpayer," said Craig Sinclair, Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre, Cancer Council Victoria.

"The number of Australians drinking at harmful levels is rising to the point where alcohol hospitalises 1,500 people a week. From our perspective, there's no time to waste in getting this agency up and running," said Mr Sinclair.

The Alcohol Policy Coalition hopes the agency will encourage investment in public education initiatives to reshape attitudes to drinking. There is also scope for the agency to tackle the preventable harms of alcohol through evidence-based initiatives such as:

  • taxation reform to discourage harmful drinking,
  • protecting children from exposure to alcohol advertising and
  • introducing rotating alcohol labels.

Alcohol is second only to tobacco as the most harmful drug in Australia and kills more than 60 Australians every week. In 2005, 3,000 Australians were diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer and 1,376 died from cancers caused by alcohol.

Alcohol has never before been cheaper, more available and such a burden on paramedics, hospitals and police.

  • 60 percent of police call-outs are alcohol-related.
  • The number of alcohol-related hospitalisations has risen by one third in a decade (1996-2005) across every state and territory in the country.
  • Drinking contributes to the three leading causes of death among adolescents - unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide.
  • Almost half a million children live in homes where they are at risk of exposure to binge drinking by at least one adult

"If the scale of the harms caused by alcohol were being caused by an illicit drug, the community would be picketing Parliament for action," said Geoff Munro National Policy Director, Australian Drug Foundation.

"Treating injuries and illness caused by alcohol is exhausting paramedic services and clogging hospital beds around the nation, so we believe this agency will go a long way to help relieve the pressure on an already burdened health system," added Mr Munro.

"We urge all politicians to think carefully about the National Preventive Health Agency and what it would mean for the future of all Australians," said Mr Munro.

About the Alcohol Policy Coalition

The Alcohol Policy Coalition (the Coalition) is a collaboration of health agencies - Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation (Victoria), Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and VicHealth - with shared concern relating to the misuse of alcohol and its health/social impacts on the community.

Alcohol remains one of the major causes of preventable death and illness in Australia. As such, the Coalition advocates for evidence based policy to prevent and reduce the harms caused by alcohol to Australians. For more information visit www.alcoholpolicycoalition.org.au.

Updated: 26 Oct, 2010