Boozy nation admits there’s a problem
A majority of Australians support the AMA’s push to close a loophole that allows for the promotion of alcohol during live daytime sports broadcasts amid widespread acknowledgement the nation has a drinking problem.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education’s annual Alcohol Poll has found that almost two-thirds of Australians do not believe governments, hoteliers and industry are doing enough to tackle alcohol misuse, and 67 per cent backed a ban on alcohol advertising and promotion on television before 8.30pm.
The results came as a joint VicHealth-La Trobe University study was released showing almost 50 per cent of all alcohol and fast food ads broadcast on television where aired during sports broadcasts, despite the fact that such shows made up just 29 per cent of total programming.
But there are concerns that efforts to curb alcohol abuse are falling victim to Federal Government cost-cutting.
Late last year the Government axed funding for the long-standing Alcohol and Other Drugs Council (see Axing drug adviser costs taxpayers $1 million, p34), and the Sunday Herald Sun reported last month that a $25 million Labor Government scheme under which sports were offered a grant for forgoing alcohol sponsorship was under a cloud.
Speaking at the launch of the Poll results, AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said they showed the AMA was far from alone in its concerns about the promotion and advertising of alcohol, particularly to young people.
The AMA has been at the forefront of efforts to address the nation’s drinking culture and the harm it causes. It has called for the loophole that allows alcohol to be promoted during sports broadcasts before 8.30pm to be closed, and earlier this year began a push for a National Summit on alcohol misuse and abuse.
Dr Hambleton said the FARE survey gave a timely yet disturbing snapshot of the extent of the country’s drinking problem.
The Poll found that almost a quarter drank at least three times a week, one in six drinkers consumed more than six standard drinks in a typical session, around 25 per cent felt unable to stop drinking once they started and more than a third said they drank to get drunk.
While a significant proportion were regular and heavy drinkers, less than 40 per cent were aware of advice that consuming more than two standard drinks in a session increased the risk of long-term alcohol-related harm.
Dr Hambleton said the results pointed to very high rates of alcohol dependency in the community, making it unsurprising that almost 75 per cent reported being adversely affected by someone else’s drinking and more than a third indicating they had experienced alcohol-related violence.
Dr Hambleton said there was broad acknowledgement that the nation had an alcohol abuse problem.
He said it was time to curb the main forces driving alcohol consumption – its ready availability, affordability and heavy promotion.
“Alcohol is just about everywhere,” the AMA President said. “There are licensed premises and sellers within easy travelling distance to us all. Positive and glamorous images and messages about alcohol are also just about everywhere, thanks to the ubiquitous advertising and marketing of alcohol.”
He said the pervasive nature of alcohol promotion was a key ingredient in inculcating the drinking culture in younger people and perpetuating its heavy consumption, underlining the importance of the push to ban promotion during sports programs.
Lead researcher of the VicHealth-La Trobe study, Associate Professor Matthew Nicholson said audiences of sports broadcasts were exposed to substantial amounts of alcohol and junk food branding while games were in play – much more than in advertisements broadcast during breaks.
Associate Professor Nicholson said that during AFL matches broadcast on television, viewers had 4.5 times greater exposure to alcohol branding on the field than during ad breaks, and around 12 per cent of match screen time was alcohol or fast food-related. He added it reached as high as 61 per cent during broadcasts of cricket matches.
Australians are worried about the nation’s drinking habit – the FARE Poll found almost half rate alcohol as the most harmful drug in the community and 78 per cent believe there is a problem with excess drinking.
Dr Hambleton said policymakers and organisations like the AMA concerned about public health had an obligation to take action to start to turn the nation’s dangerous drinking culture around.