Binge drinking “crisis” leading to global policy changes

Posted by Isobel Drake on 19th June 2008

The Australian Government is not the only government making policy changes to curb binge drinking rates as concern spreads worldwide.

Like the Rudd Government, the American Government has increased alcopop taxes, while England is considering increasing prices of alcohol in supermarkets. Scotland, though, are planning to go further, with a range of initiatives planned to limit binge drinking.

The Scottish Government yesterday launched its new approach with the aim of changing Scotland’s relationship with drink before the cost of alcohol misuse rises further. “The Scottish Government is determined to tackle alcohol misuse,” Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, said. “People across all sections of society, of all ages, are drinking ever greater quantities of stronger alcoholic drinks. It should come as no surprise that alcohol-related health problems have risen hand-in-hand with this increased consumption.”

The extensive changes would include: raising the minimum age for off-sales alcohol purchases to 21; setting a minimum price at which a unit of alcohol can be sold; ending bulk-purchase promotions (e.g. ‘3 for price of 2’); a ‘social responsibility fee’ for some alcohol retailers to help pay for the consequences of alcohol misuse; and the introduction of alcohol-only checkouts in large off-sales premises, so that alcohol, like cigarettes, is thought of as a special case and not ‘just another product’.

“Now is the time for action to defuse the health time-bomb alcohol misuse is storing up for the future,” Ms Sturgeon proclaimed. “We believe that by raising the age for off-sales purchase of alcohol to 21, together with better enforcement, we will reduce excessive consumption among young people.”

“Setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol will mean price better reflects the strength of alcoholic drinks. This will end the heavy discounting which allows strong drink to be sold cheaper than bottled water.”

The Scottish Government proposals appear to promote the most stringent approach to binge drinking that has been witnessed thus far, but, as governments around the world look for ways to reduce the amount of alcohol misuse, stricter changes to legislation could be expected.