Long-awaited National Alcohol Strategy released
11 December 2019
The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) welcomed the new National Alcohol Strategy 2019-2028, which was released last week after endorsement by the Ministerial Drug and Alcohol Forum.
The National Alcohol Strategy fills the gap left after the previous strategy expired in 2011 and it is a necessary driver to reduce alcohol-related harm in Australia.
Alcohol use is a major contributor to chronic disease burden and a preventable risk factor for stroke, coronary heart disease and many cancers. There is a strong need to reduce harmful alcohol consumption and address the disproportionate impacts on certain population groups.
While the Strategy includes many policy actions to curb the impact of alcohol, ACDPA is disappointed that changes to alcohol taxation were immediately ruled out by the Federal Government. In contrast, Australia’s commitment to tobacco taxation has been a major driver in reducing tobacco smoking over many years.
Alcohol taxation is widely regarded as one of the most cost-effective and feasible interventions to address harmful alcohol use and recommended as a ‘best buy’ by the World Health Organization. Australian modelling estimates that increasing volumetric taxation across all alcoholic beverages could reduce alcohol consumption by 24 percent and increase taxation revenue by more than $3 billion.[i]
ACDPA’s submission in 2018 to the development of the Strategy notes that alcohol taxation should consider its impact:
The development of alcohol taxation policy should acknowledge that alcohol is responsible for major harms in our community, including the contribution of long-term alcohol use to a number of chronic diseases. Increased volumetric taxation (based on alcohol content) of all alcoholic products, including wine, could better reflect the burden of illness and injury imposed by alcohol and encourage more responsible consumption. Young people and heavy drinkers are particularly responsive to changes in alcohol prices.
ACDPA supports the allocation of revenue from alcohol taxation to health initiatives that address alcohol-related harms.
ACDPA welcomes the Strategy’s overarching target to reduce harmful alcohol consumption by 10 percent and calls on federal and jurisdictional governments to track progress towards the target and prioritise the most effective policies to reduce the impact of alcohol on the community.
[i] Byrnes JM, Cobiac LJ, et al. Cost‐effectiveness of volumetric alcohol taxation in Australia. Med J Aust 2010 Apr 19;192(8):439‐43.