UOW academic urges booze-tax bravery

A senior University of Wollongong academic wants governments to "be brave" and increase the tax on alcohol to reduce emergency department admissions due to booze-fuelled violence.

Centre for Health Initiatives director Professor Sandra Jones said "the evidence was absolutely clear" that an increase in the price of alcohol, fewer liquor outlets and more restricted opening hours would reduce the strain put on emergency service workers dealing with drunks.

Her call comes as a new study into alcohol-related violence begins across the country.

Undertaken by The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, hospital emergency departments across the country will be surveyed over their rates of alcohol-related admissions.

The announcement also coincided with a report released yesterday into the prevalence of glassing incidents contributing to ED admissions in Queensland.

Data from the study showed contrary to public perception, glassings, particularly at licensed venues, constituted a relatively small proportion of all alcohol-related violence.

Glassings represented just 9 per cent of alcohol-related assault injuries between 1999 and 2011.

It was also discovered the home was the most common location for alcohol-related violence (31 per cent) and alcohol-related glassings (33 per cent).

It's a statistic Prof Jones said often surprised people.

"I think that's probably one of scariest parts about it," she said.

"If we talk about alcohol-related violence what we tend to think about is the very public face of it.

"But if we actually look at where a lot of alcohol-related violence is occurring, it's occurring outside those venues because we have a very high proportion of people who are drinking large amounts of takeaway alcohol."

Prof Jones said there was also an incorrect idea that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds tended to drink more.

"Particularly for women, higher alcohol consumption is associated with higher education and a higher income," she said.

Prof Jones pointed to Newcastle as an example of where tighter controls over the availability of alcohol had contributed to a safer night-time environment, and said a change in drinking culture was needed in Australia.

"We want to have a culture where everyone can go out in our community and feel safe," she said.

"The evidence is absolutely clear that we need to increase the price of alcohol, reduce its availability ... [and] we need to ban or limit alcohol advertising.

"And we need our governments to be brave enough to do it."


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