Home > Anytime, anyplace, anywhere? Addressing physical availability of alcohol in Australia and the UK.

Foster, Jon and Harrison, Anthony and Brown, Katherine and Manton, Elizabeth and Wilkinson, Claire and Ferguson, Amy (2017) Anytime, anyplace, anywhere? Addressing physical availability of alcohol in Australia and the UK. London and Canberra: Institute of Alcohol Studies and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

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The net result seems to have been relatively stable per capita consumption, but an increased awareness of harms associated with drinking. The political response to increasing public concern has focused predominantly on late-night violence and the broad notion of community amenity. Cracking down on drink driving was an earlier manifestation of this kind of response to visible problems involving a large number of ambulance attendances and emergency department presentations.

Pressure on the political system has produced a variety of policies targeting the temporal availability of alcohol. The high profile of alcohol-related street violence in Australia in particular, has driven restrictions on the sale of particular products or in certain forms late at night. Both Australia and the UK have initiatives attempting to address the cumulative impact of licensed businesses to maintain community amenity. The UK has also produced schemes such as ‘reducing the strength’ to encourage voluntary restrictions on particular products.

Political will for meaningful reform has regularly been limited by the enormous power and sophisticated lobby of the alcohol and hospitality industries. Much of the policy debate in Australia has surrounded the late night trade of alcohol. With debate focusing on events at 4am, it has remained peripheral to the great majority of Australians who are in bed at that time. Similarly, progress on cumulative and community impact has been largely ineffective. Policies have focused on whether and where further licences will be issued rather than reducing the number of licences, which has not been an issue which governments have been willing to consider.

The breadth of harm associated with alcohol demands targeted measures and consideration of alcohol policy across a variety of domains. The multifaceted nature of domestic violence and chronic disease, for example, mean policies addressing alcohol’s role in these issues are both challenging to develop and sometimes overlooked. A recurrent surprise has been that a relatively strong measure aimed at visible problems on the street – for instance, drink driving – unexpectedly has an effect in reducing rates of domestic violence.

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