By Ian Neubauer
Hospital admission data indicates little or no change in the impact of high-risk drinking on the health of young Australians since the RTD tax hike was introduced in April last year, according to a report by Access Economics.
Commissioned by the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA), the report compared alcohol-related hospital treatment rates from 2005 to 2008.
It found hospital rates for acute intoxication among young people — females in particular — actually worsened following the introduction of the tax hike.
“For females and males aged 12-24 years, the rates of alcohol-related ‘separations’ (end of an episode of care in hospitals) from May to June 2008 were not only higher than in previous years but also, for females, higher than earlier months in 2008,” said Access Economics director, Lynne Pezzullo.
Pezzullo attributed the increase to RTD drinkers switching to cask wine and spirits that are sold in larger containers for which consumption is more difficult to monitor.
Australian Drug Foundation national policy manager, Geoff Munro, disagreed, saying RTDs still presented the riskiest form of drinking for young people.
“[RTDs] make drinking easy for the youngest teenagers and they are implicated in dangerous levels of drinking by young people,” he said. “[RTDs] are marketed to introduce spirits to adolescents and they work.”
Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also slammed the report, describing it as yet another attempt by DSICA to manipulate the facts for the sake of its members’ balance sheets. “This shameful attempt at manipulation is as dodgy as a three-day-old kebab,” News Ltd reported the minister saying.
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