Understanding the risks and returns of alcohol in the community

Do you understand the harms associated with alcohol in the community?One of the outcomes of the  Responsible Management of Licensed Venues (RMLV) training course is understanding the balance in providing alcohol. That is, the balance between the leisure and social activity and the harms that may be caused through irresponsible trading practices.

Alcohol in the community

Licensees and approved managers who sell and supply alcohol have an important role to play in the community. Licensed venues provide a safe environment for people to enjoy alcohol while participating in a range of other activities.

Benefits of the liquor industry

  • It provides facilities for recreation, tourism, leisure and social activities, e.g. restaurants, convention centres, entertainment venues, resorts
  • Employment opportunities
  • Health outcomes when consumed in moderation.

The consumption of alcohol is an accepted and common cultural practice among Queenslanders and plays an important role within social and recreational settings. Although a significant proportion of Queenslanders do not drink, of those who do, many consider themselves to drink moderately without apparent harm to themselves or others. However, latest research indicates that we are trending towards consuming alcohol at precariously high levels not conducive for our health and well-being.

Based on the National Health and Medical Research council guidelines for safe drinking (four standard drinks per day for men and two per day for women), it was found 80% of alcohol consumed in Australia in 2001 put the drinker at risk of immediate or long-term harm. These trends were reflected in the Queensland consumption rates, with Queensland drinking behaviours among the most risky in Australia and higher than the national average.

Costs of alcohol misuse

In monetary terms, the cost of alcohol misuse to Queensland is estimated to be $1.4 billion per year. To the Australian community, the cost is estimated to be $4.7 billion per annum. It is estimated that 84% of these costs ($3.8 billion) are potentially preventable. These social costs include:

  • public safety risks
  • workplace injury
  • absenteeism in the workplace
  • loss of productivity
  • staff turnover
  • hospital treatment, counselling, detoxification
  • crime and violence
  • death
  • family disruption
  • trauma
  • road accident
  • legal and court costs.

While there was some decline in consumption rates by Queenslanders in the 10 years between 1991 and 2001, Queensland still has one of the highest rates of alcohol-caused deaths and hospitalisations in Australia.

Between 1992 and 2001, more than 6000 Queenslanders died of alcohol-related causes and more than 136,000 were hospitalised.

Given that a large proportion of these costs are considered to be potentially preventable, various levels of government have identified prevention of harm related to alcohol misuse a priority. Because alcohol is a legal and regulated drug, the responsibility of government is confined to reducing individual and community harm associated with its misuse.

As a result, government is involved in a broad range of programs addressing all aspects of alcohol misuse including health promotion, protection of high risk groups, reduction in road trauma, treatment and rehabilitation, and the promotion of safer and more responsible consumption. This links directly with the RMLV training course.