Submission to the Parliament of NSW Inquiry into strategies to reduce alcohol abuse among young people in NSW

In February 2013, Cancer Council NSW responded to the Parliament of NSW Inquiry into strategies to reduce alcohol abuse among young people in NSW.

Cancer Council NSW believes that changing alcohol use in young people will require a significant shift in Australia’s cultural beliefs around alcohol and drinking. Young people must be supported to make healthier drinking choices, and positively influencing the drinking culture can reduce alcohol consumption in the long term, and hence improve young people’s future health. As such, a broad range of policy interventions will be required.

In this submission, Cancer Council NSW recommended:
1. That the Federal Government assumes responsibility for the regulation of alcohol advertising in Australia to reduce the impact of alcohol advertising and promotion on children and young people. The advertising codes should be administered by an independent body with the power to monitor, investigate and penalise breaches of the code. The NSW Government should advocate for the Federal Government to take this approach through its roles on the Council of Australian Governments and the
Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs.

2. In the absence of mandatory regulation, the current Alcohol Beverages Advertising (and Packaging) Code (ABAC) should be strengthened by including the following amendments, to reduce the harms associated with children’s exposure to alcohol advertising:
a) Expanding the regulations to encompass advertising placement and not just content of the advertisements;
b) Expanding the regulation so that compliance is mandatory for all sectors of the alcohol industry, including independent producers and the retail sector;
c) Abolishing the exception that allows alcohol advertising during live sporting events before 9.00pm;
d) Introducing regulations to stop the sponsorship of sporting and cultural events popular with children and young people, and amateur sporting clubs with underage members or teams;
e) Ensuring that any alcohol advertising code includes a clause that relates to the drinking culture, in terms of not allowing advertisements and promotions that normalise frequent and excessive alcohol consumption;
f) Reviewing the membership of the ABAC Scheme management committee to ensure that members are independent of the alcohol industry; and
g) Including a minimum of two public health representatives on the management committee of the ABAC Scheme.

3. The Liquor Act 2007 should be amended to ban competitions and promotions that encourage rapid consumption of alcohol, drinking to excess or intoxication.

4. The NSW Government should consistently consider the long-term, chronic health issues (such as cancer) associated with high levels of alcohol consumption and not just the short-term, acute harms, when planning harm minimisation programs and education campaigns.

5. The NSW Government should introduce primary prevention and education programs delivered through the Healthy Workers Initiative, aimed at reducing workers’ consumption of alcohol and influencing the drinking culture, and evaluate these programs comprehensively to build the evidence in this area.

6. The NSW Government should broaden the scope of its policy, public education and health promotion in state alcohol plans to include initiatives aimed at reducing the harms associated with long-term consumption of alcohol to reduce the burden of alcohol-related chronic disease in the NSW population. This is important to prevent young people from establishing long-term patterns of high levels of alcohol consumption over their lifespan.

7. The NSW Government should advocate for reframing the issue of the binge drinking culture to one of sensible drinking, and as such broaden the standpoint from a harm minimisation issue to a health promotion issue.

Download the full submission here