A minimum price for alcohol has helped reduce drinking problems in the Northern Territory – is it time for a national rollout?

The “floor price” of alcohol introduced by the Northern Territory in 2018 halved the consumption of wine on tap, without significantly impacting sales of other types of alcohol, according to our new analysis of the effectiveness of politics.

On October 1, 2018, the NT introduced a minimum price of A $ 1.30 per unit (equivalent to 10 grams of pure alcohol or a “standard drink”) on alcohol, in an effort to combat the problems alcohol consumption.

The award was chosen to target inexpensive wines which have always been a problem throughout NT, without influencing other types of alcohol.

Alcohol has been ranked as the most harmful drug for Australian communities, and the greatest harm of all comes from excessive alcohol consumption. In Australia, an estimated three-quarters of all alcohol is consumed by its 20% of its heaviest drinkers, a group on which the alcohol industry depends and actively targets, calling them super consumers.

Nowhere in Australia is alcohol harm more glaring than in the Northern Territory, where alcohol-related harm costs the community an estimated A $ 1.4 billion annually. Alcohol-related deaths in the territory are two to ten times higher than the national average.

Northern Territory

Our study, published today in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, looked at overall alcohol consumption as well as the consumption of specific alcohol categories, particularly wine on tap. Cask wine makes up less than 5% of the alcohol consumed in the Northern Territories, but because it offers a lot of alcohol at a low price, it contributes disproportionately to alcohol problems among vulnerable drinkers and disadvantaged communities. .

We have divided our analysis into two regions: the whole of NT and the Darwin / Palmerston region. Darwin and Palmerston’s analysis is particularly important, as other areas of the NT experienced a change in levels of police intervention at the point of sale during the period under review. The impact of these changes in policing could not be fully controlled, while the changes in Darwin / Palmerston can be reliably attributed to the effect of the minimum price of alcohol.

In the year since the minimum unit price was introduced, there was a 48.84% reduction in consumption of wine on tap in Darwin and Palmerston, and a 50.57% reduction in the NT. No significant reduction in the consumption of alcohols other than wine has been observed in Darwin and Palmerston or in the NT.

This suggests that establishing a minimum price for alcohol can help heavy drinkers reduce their consumption, without harming moderate or occasional drinkers.

Read more: NT puts minimum floor price on alcohol as evidence shows it works to reduce harm

We found no evidence that heavy drinkers switched from cask wine to other types of alcohol in response to the floor price. While there has been an increase in sales of spirits, this trend started before the introduction of the minimum price.

Community members had expressed concern that the minimum price would have a negative impact on beer sales. However, full-strength beer, the most widely consumed type of alcohol in the Northwest Territories, did not experience a significant change in response to the minimum price.

The consumption of wine in casks halved in the year following the introduction of a minimum price.

Time for a national deployment?

Given how effectively this policy has reduced the consumption of cask wine in the NT, it is time for other state and federal governments to consider doing the same. Internationally, minimum price policies have already been implemented in Scotland and Wales, and the Republic of Ireland has also passed legislation to implement a price floor at a later date.

Other potential benefits of a minimum unit price for alcohol include higher tax revenues and various social benefits of lower alcohol consumption. Both of these could potentially help Australia recover from the financial burden of COVID-19.

In the past, the alcohol industry has consistently undermined efforts to reform alcohol regulations and attempted to dominate the alcohol policy debate.

Read more: How much does alcohol try to make us believe that drinking alcohol is safer than it actually is

Not surprisingly, the alcohol industry is one of the largest political donor groups in Australia.

Notably, after the publication of the first assessment of the minimum unit price policy in the NT, industry group Retail Drinks Australia claimed that consumption had in fact increased. Our latest study directly refutes this.

It will be important for policy makers across Australia to discuss the merits of this policy without being unduly influenced by the alcohol industry, which relies on profits from problem drinkers.

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