EXPERT REACTION: NT to be first jurisdiction in Australia with minimum floor price on alcohol
Organisation/s: Menzies Institute for Medical Research, Curtin University, The University of Queensland
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The University of Queensland Drug and Alcohol Research and Education Centre welcome this news. It’s a major move forward and sets the context for other states to follow.
Recently FARE ranked the NT as having the worst alcohol legislation in Australia, which together with the highest rates of individual alcohol consumption placed the NT at the bottom of Australian’s jurisdictions. In one legislative move the NT has leapt over all other states to deal with one of the largest problems we confront in the field, the massive discounting of alcohol.
This legislation will particularly affect heavy drinkers of cheap wines…a target group with the worst alcohol-related health.
Evidence is clear that reducing access to alcohol is an important harm minimisation strategy. A minimum floor price on alcohol is one evidence-based strategy, among a suite options, that can help to minimise the costs and harms of alcohol in Northern Territory.
What is impressive about the NT Government’s response to the recent NT Alcohol Policies and Legislation Review is its commitment to a whole-of-government approach to tackle the harms of alcohol.
The NT Government Alcohol Harm Minimisation Action Plan 2018-2019 clearly outlines that action on social determinants of health is a priority, alongside a review of the NT Liquor Act.
This will complement the implementation of multiple harm minimisation strategies, including investments in research, evaluation and community education. It is this broader understanding of alcohol harm minimisation that has the greatest potential to improve health outcomes of Territorians, if implemented effectively.
There is real momentum for minimum pricing policies in many parts of the world, and for good reason. Evidence shows minimum alcohol pricing can reduce drinking and harms from alcohol, and is particularly targeted towards the heaviest drinkers.
Canada, some Eastern European countries, and several US states already set some form of minimum price on alcohol. Scotland will introduce minimum pricing in 2018 and other areas of the UK are expected to follow.
Within Australia, it is very encouraging that the Northern Territory Government is moving ahead with a floor price, and it’s also being actively considered in Western Australia.
As the price of alcohol increases, drinking reduces, including for heavy drinkers. Minimum pricing is expected to have the greatest impact on heavy drinkers because heavier drinkers tend to buy cheaper alcohol, and more of it, compared to lighter drinkers.
Moderate drinkers will only be minimally, if at all, affected by a minimum price. Young people are particularly sensitive to the price of alcohol, so price controls, such as minimum pricing, are likely to contribute to preventing harm from alcohol among young people as well as the broader community.
Lower-income groups experience more harms from drinking than higher-income groups. Therefore, low-income groups are likely to experience a greater reduction in alcohol-related harms as a result of reduced alcohol use due to minimum pricing compared to other income groups.