PUTTING HEALTH FIRST
Alcohol has a complex role in our society. While some Queenslanders abstain from alcohol altogether, alcohol is widely reported as being part of the cultural identity of Australians to the point where not consuming alcohol can be viewed as ‘unAustralian’.
Examples of this unhealthy relationship with alcohol can be seen in intoxication as a rite of passage into adulthood, peer pressure to consume alcohol, the lauding of alcohol consumption by the media and advertising, the belief that alcohol and celebration are intrinsically linked, and the widespread availability of cheap alcohol products.
The harms of alcohol
While many may regard this cultural norm with alcohol as positive and relatively harmless, the broader social, health, and economic impacts are often underestimated. Harmful consumption of alcohol can lead to devastating social costs, such as increased risk of motor vehicle crashes and other causes of injury, pedestrian fatalities, crime, work accidents, street and family violence and sexual assault.
Alcohol is a significant contributor to family violence and child maltreatment, involved in up to 67 per cent of family violence incidents reported to police and up to 47 per cent of child abuse cases in Australia.
Around 1 in 3 people exceed the current National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines to reduce single occasion risk of harm, but people often do not recognise that this is damaging to their health.
72 per cent of Queensland drinkers are comfortable with how much they drink, yet 50 per cent drink to get drunk.
Alcohol’s link to cancer, cardio-vascular disease, mental health problems and many chronic diseases is still poorly understood by the wider community.
While most Australians associate illnesses such as cirrhosis of the liver (76%) and liver cancer (72%) with alcohol use, fewer Australians are aware of the link between alcohol use and heart disease (54%), stroke (41%), mouth and throat cancer (29%) and breast cancer (16%). A small number of people (5%) are unaware that alcohol is linked with any of the conditions mentioned above. But this isn’t just a social or health issue, it’s an economic issue.
The latest assessment by the Chief Health Officer estimates that the financial cost of alcohol consumption to the Queensland economy is $2.2 billion, with $400 million spent on healthcare, $720 million in productivity losses including absenteeism, $310 million in home production losses, $320 million in crime and $440 million in road transport injuries.
A lot of progress has been made. The Tackling Alcohol Fuelled Violence measures introduced in 2016 addressed have been evaluated as a success, allowing Queenslanders to have the freedom to go to local entertainment precincts and not to worry about being exposed to alcohol related anti-social behaviour and violence. Queenslanders want these measures so they can enjoy their time with friends and family, rather than be concerned about the safety of themselves and those around them.
The overwhelming majority of Queenslanders believe that we have a problem with alcohol, and that more needs to be done to address alcohol-related harms. QCAA shares their concerns. We want Queenslanders to live happy, healthy, safe and productive lives that contribute in a positive way to the social fabric of Queensland society.
Putting health first
This election, the QCAA on behalf of its members is asking all political leaders and parties to put the health of Queenslanders first by supporting evidence-based alcohol policies. Our 5 Point Plan builds on the existing efforts and responses to prevent and minimise the social, health and economic harms of alcohol.