Alcohol control no nanny state conspiracy: preventive health lobby
Bernard Keane’s skewed rant claims there is a public health conspiracy afoot. It is no conspiracy — the facts are clear.
Worldwide there are 60 million deaths annually attributable to non-communicable diseases. The four top risk factors are alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Alcohol ranks third among these risk factors and is responsible for 2.5 million of these deaths.
Around Australia there are many people outside the preventive health sector, in our cities, rural communities and in remote Australia, who are working hard to combat the appalling impact of too much booze. Your correspondent’s opinion is reminiscent of The Times thundering in 1851 “We are willing to take our chances of cholera and the rest than be bullied into health by Mr Snow”, as efforts mounted to clean up London’s water. For a point-by-point response …
Basic rights: There is no public health campaign against human rights. Just a simple evidence-based case that illustrates alcohol causes harm to drinkers and to others. This is in the fine tradition of public health interventions that over the past 150 years have been the key driver of increased life expectancy in Australia. That’s a human right.
Alcohol in schools: Increasingly schools are removing alcohol from school-based events because they acknowledge that the normalisation of alcohol influences the drinking behaviours of young people.
Legal drinking limit: The AMA has not said this, the media has; what the AMA has said is that we should be conscious of the evidence that alcohol harmfully affects the developing brain. It is also worth noting that more than half of adult Australians support raising the legal drinking age.
Online wine: Keane explicitly accuses Professor Jones of “declaring (without evidence)” — this is incorrect, which he would have discovered if he had checked with her. The evidence shows that young people are the highest social network users; in 2011 40.2% of US Groupon users were aged 18-34 (there is no data on under 18s); and studies consistently show that lower socioeconomic groups and people with limited disposable income (young people, indigenous groups and heavy drinkers) are more responsive to price.
Alcohol floor price: ANPHA has made an economically convincing case that reforming the wine equalisation tax (WET) must come before introducing minimum price regimes. A view supported by brewers, distillers and two of Australia’s largest wine corporations.
Alcohol taxation benefit cost analysis: The research is clear that alcohol taxation reform is justified. 85% of Australians will be better off as a consequence. Access Economics’ analysis has been repudiated and the $20 billion a year cost estimate of alcohol’s “harm to others” confirmed.
Calculated hedonism: There are too many examples of workplace booze cultures being responsible for tragic events that have ended lives and careers. Alcohol’s drag on productivity is only just beginning to be understood and if employers are not concerned about the social harms then they should be concerned about the impact on their bottom line.
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