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Thursday, October 22, 2020
Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts

Study shows majority reduced drinking, but alcohol-fueled harm on rise

A university study says two-thirds of people have decreased or made no change to alcohol consumption during the pandemic, but frontline services are reporting increased levels of alcohol-fueled harm.

Alcohol Beverages Australia CEO Andrew Wilsmore said the University of NSW findings should ease the nation’s perception on the need for more regulation around alcohol consumption.

“Those scenes of long queues when Australians feared bottle shops could be closed created a perception that we were all drinking to excess at home, but the reality, confirmed by Treasury and now University of NSW, is that Australians continued to drink in moderation,” he said.

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“What’s hurt most are the restrictions on gatherings, events and the closure of hospitality and tourism venues which has impacted both business and government revenues.”

The organisation said the research backs its own analysis into the $670 million Federal Budget shortfall over the next two years, due to lower revenue from alcohol taxes.

However, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has said that the university findings, like many studies during this time, show a mixed response from the Australian public.

“As with many surveys during COVID, this study shows a proportion of people increasing their drinking during this time and a proportion of people who have decreased their alcohol use,” FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi said.

“When we focus on people’s safety and health, there is a continuous stream of reports from a variety of frontline services about concerning levels of alcohol-fuelled harm, which should concern everyone.”

Ms Giorgi said the organisation was concerned by the rise of alcohol-fuelled harm being reported, especially around family violence.

“Women’s Safety NSW have reached out to people working on the frontline of family violence services and 73% of them have reported an increase in family violence triggered by drug and alcohol use,” Ms Giorgi said.  

“Before the pandemic, one in five children were negatively impacted in some way by the alcohol use of those around them. These impacts have long-lasting implications.”

Alcohol Beverages Australia argued a universal approach on services and policy in the alcohol industry were not effective.

“The UNSW study calls for a targeted rather than a universal approach to alcohol policy and public health messaging to ensure it addresses the specific needs of different groups,” Mr Wilsmore said.

“With tax being a blunt policy instrument and making up a third to nearly half of the price of a bottle of wine, beer or spirits, now is the time for government to examine the affordability of a drink to help lower the price of a night out and get people back into bars and restaurants and quickly create jobs.”

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