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Health experts call on alcohol industry to do its bit

Monday 7 July, 2008

A coalition of health agencies has called on the major alcohol companies to take greater responsibility for the problems caused by alcohol misuse.

Members of the new coalition, which include VicHealth, the Australian Drug Foundation, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, and The Cancer Council Victoria, have a strong track record in tackling major health issues in the community.

Finding a solution to the problem of alcohol misuse requires governments, the community, individuals, and the alcohol industry all doing their bit.

Todd Harper, CEO of VicHealth said:

"We have formed this coalition as a group of health agencies who are concerned about alcohol problems in the community and are committed to working together to find solutions.

"The coalition will advocate for policies and programs that are known to be effective in preventing and reducing alcohol misuse and related problems.

The coalition supports:

  • The Federal Government's tax increase on Ready-To-Drink (RTD) products, as well as an overhaul of the entire current alcohol tax system to introduce volumetric taxation, which should be scaled for different product categories, and should include minimum prices for alcohol products.
  • The replacement of the current self-regulatory advertising system and the introduction of independent regulation with powers to sanction.
  • The introduction of mandatory consumer information labels on all alcohol products so that individuals can make an informed choice about their drinking.

John Rogerson, CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation said:

"Its now time for the alcohol industry to stop blaming others for the problems caused by alcohol and start supporting prevention strategies that are known to be effective".

The latest survey of drug use by Australians revealed that 28 per cent of female teenagers and 25 per cent of male teenagers regularly binge drink.

More recent research shows that between 1999-2000 and 2005-2006 there were dramatic increases in alcohol related hospitalisations for young Australians aged between 16 and 24 years.

The greatest increase occurred among females aged 18 to 24 years, with admissions more than doubling to 14.6 per 10,000 people.

There are now 19,000 alcohol outlets in Victoria, with an average of two new outlets opening every day.

Professor David Hill, Director of The Cancer Council Victoria said:

"We have reached saturation point in terms of the availability of alcohol, and we know that the easier it is to access alcohol, the more likely it is to be consumed".

The coalition is also concerned about the price-cutting of alcohol products which may promote unsafe consumption, particularly among young people and other groups who have limited income.

The real price of alcohol in Australia has actually remained relatively low compared to other commodities, and dropped in some cases. For example, a glass of wine costing $1.00 in June 1999 has dropped in real terms, to $0.90 in March 2008.

Professor Robin Room, Acting Director of Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre said:

"International research shows one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol misuse and promote safer levels of alcohol consumption is by increasing the price through higher taxes".

"Alcohol use is a complex problem requiring a suite of measures to achieve long term change."

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