The need for urgent action to prevent increasing rates of alcohol harm
PublishedDecember 18, 2023
Caterina Giorgi, CEO, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE)
In September this year, data released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed that deaths caused directly by alcohol, such as those alcoholic liver disease, increased by 9.1 per cent between 2021 and 2022 to 6.0 per 100,000.1
This is the fourth consecutive year that there has been an increase in the rate of deaths from alcohol in Australia and this is the greatest year-on-year increase. This is also the highest rate of deaths in a decade.
This follows data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) showing that there has been a 37 per cent increase in the number of treatment episodes where alcohol is the principal drug of concern over the past decade (2012-13, 63,755 episodes to 2021-22, 87,334 episodes).2
These increases come at a time when alcohol companies have changed the way that they sell alcohol. Digital marketing and the delivery of alcohol has made every phone a bottle shop and a billboard. Targeted marketing means that the more that a person is sold alcohol, the more they will be served ads for alcohol.
These digital ad models are particularly harmful for addictive products. In Australia, alcohol companies sell 36 per cent of alcohol to five per cent of people.3 Alcohol companies are able to target people who are most at risk based upon their behaviours across the internet which are tracked and traced.
There are very few controls in the way that alcohol is marketed and sold online. The ACT and Queensland Governments are currently consulting on changes to their legislation to update laws relating to the delivery of alcohol. The NSW Government made some changes, and is now consulting as part of a two-year review. At the federal level, the Privacy Act Review is considering the use of data online.
Checks and balances are needed to keep families and communities healthy and safe. This includes introducing age verification at the point of sale and delivery, limiting the hours of sale to between 10am and 10pm, introducing a two-hour safety pause between when alcohol is purchased and delivered and placing common sense controls on harmful product marketing.
Actions are needed now to ensure that we’re doing all we can to reverse the concerning trends in alcohol harm across the country.