Patience required for cultural shift on alcohol

The AMA’s call for a national summit to tackle widespread alcohol misuse has been given the thumbs up by health advocacy groups across the country but one public health expert cautions that any resulting change will take time.

Professor Mike Daube (pictured), the Public Health Association of Australia’s spokesman on alcohol, says assuming the summit goes ahead and all parties agree on a course of action, expecting instant results is not realistic.

“Look what happened with tobacco reform,” he said. “For the first 20 years people said, ‘you failed, you failed’ but eventually, we got there.  And with alcohol it will be the same because there is no magic bullet. The drinking culture has taken quite a while to build up and it will take some time to fix.

“At least there is now a consensus among health groups and we are doing something about it.”

Professor Daube stressed that now was not the time for a talkfest but instead immediate action on alcohol policy and regulation should be the priority.

“We’ve got plenty of evidence – so the summit must be about deciding what to do now,” he said. “No more committees and reviews.”

For his part, Professor Daube said he will continue to push for pricing and taxation reform along with changes to advertising and marketing laws.

“We have a crazy dysfunctional alcohol tax system and there is no control over alcohol advertising. To date we’ve had to fight these battles state by state and shire by shire so it’s about time we had a nationally consistent approach.

“And whatever we do, must be without any alcohol industry participation. They are the problem not part of the solution.”