Alcohol is one of those plagues of modern society managed in different ways across different cultures. In Australia, for instance, there has been much talk of late that locals tend to associate alcohol consumption with national pride and identity. Whatever the cultural reasons behind binge drinking may be down under, the reality is that the current situation poses a major health risk for a large number of people, but especially for the young. A recent report from the Australian Alcohol Advertising Review Board explains that advertising the consumption of booze is not sufficiently regulated down under. The first ever yearly report of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board was published in a partnership involving the McCusker Center for Action on Alcohol and Youth and the Cancer Council in Western Australia.
The findings of the report are worrying on several counts, but perhaps the most serious one, which needs to be addressed as soon as possible, is the way in which advertising targets alcohol products at the younger demographic. This issue had already been raised in a report supported by the national Council on Drug Strategy, but this time, some precise problem points have been identified. On the one hand, alcohol is being promoted as immediately available to young people, especially through brand endorsement at sporting events, but also through creative packaging solutions aimed at youths. In a country in which 7 per cent of males and 4 per cent of females die as a result of alcohol consumption, this reality should be remedy as quickly as possible, explain the authors of the report.
In terms of actual causes of death induced by alcohol, most victims suffer from strokes, fatal falls, and liver cirrhosis. As for advertising alcohol, the board received over 200 complaints on this topic last year. The report states that 80 per cent of the alcohol consumed by children and young adults (aged 14 to 24) puts their health at risk and also increases the consumers’ odds at acting dangerously toward others.
Fiona Stanley, the chairwoman of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board says alcohol advertising is impressively creative, but that this creativity also comes with risks. She added that children and youths are exposed to alcohol ads too much, both directly and indirectly, and that this situation promotes binge drinking. Some providers offer counseling services for children and teenagers under their family health insurance policies and, since the market isn’t doing much to help, perhaps therapy is the only solution for parents that find themselves in this type of scenario. According to Mike Daube, the director of the McCusker Center, added that the current situation, in which the alcohol and advertising industries are allowed to regulate themselves, is no longer tenable.
On a similar note, a report published in April by the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra, explains that massive alcohol consumption also raises massive costs for Australian society. An estimate for the 2004-2005 year gauged the social expenses determined by irresponsible alcohol consumption and found that they amounted to over $15 billion. $10.8 billion of those costs were chalked up to labor and health expenses, and the remaining $4.5 billion were estimated as a consequence of violent deaths, caused by alcohol misuse. In the meantime, though, the alcoholic beverage industry is making quite a lot of money for the Federal budget. In 2010, almost $5.5 billion was collected in non-GST alcohol taxes. Consuming beer, wine, and hard liquor brought the Commonwealth an additional $7.07 billion. While it is unlikely that the Government alone could fund a nation-wide program for addressing the issue of binge drinking, the industry seems to have some significant financial resources at its disposal.
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