THERE was a great deal of self-congratulation by the government on the recent passing of legislation introducing cigarette plain packaging.
While some congratulation is undoubtedly due, the fact remains there are other health concerns requiring more attention from legislators.
Statistics indicate Australia beats even the US and Canada in per capita alcohol consumption.
- To state that alcohol-related ills are an even bigger health concern than tobacco-related ones is putting it mildly. Of the 14 risk factors examined by the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, alcohol was found to be responsible for the greatest burden in males under 45, and was responsible for 3.2% of total burden of disease and injury in 2003 (latest statistics available publicly).
- The sad truth is that while smoking causes mainly lung cancer that promptly kills the victim with relatively little cost to the health system, alcohol has many additional social and societal flow-on effects.
Many road traffic accidents are directly related to driving under the influence of alcohol.
The problem is that while many victims die in road traffic accidents, many more suffer life-long consequences such as paralysis and depression.
This burdens every (affected) family member on both sides of an accident. These are of longer-term concern to the entire healthcare system.
The methods used for promoting the sale of alcohol are very similar to what was used in selling tobacco — i.e.
sponsorship of sporting events and any other occasion where lots of people come together for any reason.
The advertising industry and electronic media are willing and helpful accomplices in this context, as long as they get paid for their services, no matter what the consequences of those advertisements may be.
Although we have done something with regards to smoking, we have not even started thinking about strategies for reducing alcohol consumption.
A lot of what we can do in this regard has to start from basic education in schools, and certainly even a shift in our cultural mindset.
- The latter can be the hardest part, but there are few other options if we want to improve the health of our nation and reduce the burden of easily preventable conditions.
This will require not only all the resources at the disposal of the health minister and the education minister, but
also perhaps even much of the culture minister’s. Can you imagine a rowdy party without alcohol?
I personally can, as I practise it myself and I know many of my colleagues do, too.
And this is not solely because I am a middle-aged grump. Do you have to be a doctor to practise this lifestyle? I do not believe so.
We need to have certain basic ideas instilled in the minds of our children, and then we may actually be able to observe the outcome in a single generation.
- http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442459753 (pages 84-85)
- T.Marshal, Medical Journal of Australia 2009; 191(2):127
Dr Tony Marshal; GP Principal, Mornington Peninsula
28th May 2013; Medical Observer