The use of alcohol has been a part of Australia’s cultural landscape for a long time, becoming almost a “rite of passage” through adolescence into adulthood.
The level of misuse of alcohol in Australian society is sadly also a part of the cultural landscape as well and something that all Australians should be concerned about. Alcohol misuse is the cause of family breakdown, violence, anti-social behaviour, injury and death. Drinking to intoxication, which brings with it many unwanted outcomes, has also become more common of late.
The vast majority of treatment services in Australia are provided to people with alcohol use problems.
Whilst there are many contributing factors to the increased level of harm caused by alcohol, there are also some key factors that need to be specifically focused on. These include; advertising, marketing campaigns that require people to purchase double the product to gain the discount and alcohol sponsorship of sport.
The Salvation Army is concerned about the significant amount of electronic and print media and product placement advertising that has proliferated in recent years. Alcohol advertisements are featured in all forms of media, in increasing incidence and prominence.
The Salvation Army calls for regulation of the advertising of alcohol products that would include a significant reduction in the amount, time placement and location of alcohol advertising and a review of current advertising guidelines.
The messages contained in alcohol advertising have been shown, in numerous studies, to influence the beliefs of the public (and in particular young people) in relation to the acceptability of alcohol use in various settings; something that is well known to the alcohol industry.
One of the most common advertising messages is that the use of alcohol will bring positive outcomes, however the opposite is regularly the case; with a range of individual, family and societal harms being the result.
Alcohol advertising and marketing should be regulated by an independent statutory body to ensure that it’s potential to generate harm is reduced and the extent and range of advertising is limited.
Wholesalers and retailers of alcohol products engage in what can best be described as “push marketing” strategies aimed only at increasing sales rather than delivering value for money to customers.
The use of loss leader products and the need for drinkers to often purchase double the quantity to gain any discount is forcing drinkers to purchase more alcohol than intended, the additional alcohol purchased results in addition al alcohol being consumed.
The use of point of sale marketing, such as; “happy hour” or “women drink free” are examples of irresponsible marketing strategies that have the result of encouraging people to drink excessively during the promotional time period, in effect supporting and encouraging binge drinking.
Retailers of alcohol products should be subject to regulation in regards to these type of marketing strategies and be required to take responsibility for how they impact on their customers.
State governments must regulate through the licencing system to eradicate these types of campaigns.
Alcohol industry sponsorship of sporting teams and clubs has proliferated in recent times, as has the sponsorship by the alcohol industry of nearly every major sporting event in Australia.
The Salvation Army welcomes the recent announcement by the Federal Sports Minister Senator Kate Lundy of a $25 million package, the Community Sponsorship Fund, which will provide funding to national sporting codes to move away from their reliance on alcohol industry sponsorship funds.
We encourage sporting groups at the local community level to also explore ways in which they are able to move away from alcohol industry sponsorship, particular in relation to the sponsorship of junior teams.
Recent Salvation Army research showed that more than 8.4 million Australians wanted alcohol advertising reduced and more than 3.6 million wanted alcohol advertising banned altogether.
The perception that more needs to be done, held by the vast majority of Australians, can be linked to the increased incidence of the range of harms that occur as a result of the misuse and use of alcohol, increased trading hours, increased number and concentrations of on-license and off-licence alcohol venues, and the increase in the advertising and promotion of alcohol, products across all mediums.
Indigenous Australians are also negatively impacted by the use of alcohol, a recent report Trends in alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians, showed that Indigenous Australians die earlier than non-Indigenous Australians as a consequence of harmful alcohol use and alcohol induced conditions, causing approximately 7% of Indigenous Australian deaths.
The significant harms caused by alcohol abuse in Australian society simply has to be stopped.
The Salvation Army is a major provider of services to people with alcohol use problems, these include; alcohol treatment services, welfare, crisis and supported housing, refuges and family services, and as such is acutely aware of the range of harms alcohol causes to individuals, families and the community.
The Salvation Army sees itself as having a strong and prominent role in supporting the community to respond to the range of harms caused by alcohol use on Australians, this includes providing; advocacy, prevention, education and treatment service provision.
We also support those impacted by the alcohol use of others, by way of providing accommodations, refuges, financial counselling, welfare and Chaplaincy support.