By Clyde Mooney – editor of Australian Hotelier
A major national study has been released on alcohol-related behaviour and the results have implications for government and the greater alcohol industry.
Deakin University's Patron Offending and Intoxication in Night-Time Entertainment Districts (POINTED) study interviewed and breath-tested over 6800 people and conducted over 900 hours observation of visitors to entertainment districts in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Geelong and Wollongong between November 2011 and June 2012.
Its findings are that around one in four of these people had taken illicit drugs before going out, and 65 per cent had engaged in pre-drinking "to save money".
Speaking to TheShout, POINTED's lead researcher, Associate Professor Peter Miller, agreed that "licensed premises cop an unfair share of the anti-alcohol sentiment".
"I'd like to say the responsibility should be joint and that lots of parties should work together on the issue," said Miller. "But I think the reality is that venues ultimately have to deal with what comes through their doors in the first instance, but should then be able to expect help from others.
"Identifying people who have taken drugs or been pre-drinking can be almost impossible and we need to both acknowledge that, but then do the best we can to minimise the harm it causes for venues and patrons."
Miller reports that a number of licensees told him they would be happy to close earlier if others would as well. For this reason, the report recommended that changes to closing hours should be across the board.
One of the study's recommendations is: "increasing the price of alcohol through taxation… to include pre-packaged alcohol used for preloading". Miller said this proposal mostly refers to discount liquor retailers.
"The current situation discriminates against venue operators in favour of large discount liquor operators, who make profits from their sales but don't pay their fair share of the costs to society."
Other recommendations include requirements for alcohol companies to pay for health warning TV advertisements directly after the screening of pro-alcohol ads; ceasing the sale of high energy drinks from 10pm; ceasing the sale of alcohol in venues an hour before closing; specific expenditure on measures that alleviate harm and the banning of bulk discount alcohol deals.
POINTED's recommendation to increase alcohol taxation is preferably based on volume and on an increasing scale according to beverage strength.
The study also found a high propensity for the use of high energy drinks (HED) – either in an alcohol mix or separate – and that users generally had a higher blood alcohol content reading and experienced more aggression and injury.