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9 Sep, 2003

Changing The Culture Of Alcohol Misuse

The travel and tourism industry espouses many noble causes — the environment, HIV/AIDS, poverty, child-sex tourism. However, it has not yet plucked up the courage to take a serious look at the widespread problems caused by alcohol abuse.







The travel and tourism industry espouses many noble causes — the environment, HIV/AIDS, poverty, child-sex tourism. However, it has not yet plucked up the courage to take a serious look at the widespread problems caused by alcohol abuse. For the few who are willing and able to do something, a 43-page communiqu? approved last month by an ‘Alcohol Summit’ in Sydney, Australia, could be a useful start.

The communique contains a poignant observation: “Alcohol has been, and continues to be, an accepted part of Australian life.” Replace the words “Australian life” with “the travel & tourism industry” and the document becomes a reality check of the massive social, psychological and economic damage inflicted by irresponsible alcohol consumption.

The Alcohol Summit was a state, as against national event, organised under the aegis of the New South Wales Parliament. Of the communique’s 43 pages, only four lines are devoted to the contribution of the liquor and hospitality industries to the NSW economy — jobs for over 60,000 people. The communique also notes the positive social and health benefits of responsible alcohol use.

The rest of the document, however, chronicles the results of irresponsible alcohol use, which costs NSW A$7 million a day inclusive of lost productivity, crime and health costs and the costs associated with road accidents. Between 1992 and 2001, NSW recorded 10,369 deaths and 537,742 hospital episodes related to alcohol. “Alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable death in Australia,” the summit was told.

Though designed to seek state-wide solutions, the summit recognised the centrality of a federal government document known as the National Alcohol Strategy: A Plan for Action 2001-2004 signed by all Australian state governments. Indeed, the summit heard that various efforts over the years to crack down on drunk driving, as well medical and pharmacological approaches, have helped cut alcohol-related deaths and injuries. Random breath testing changed the culture of drink driving in NSW, the communiqu? said, adding, “Similar cultural shifts will also be needed if the problems associated with alcohol abuse are to be reduced.”

Indeed, this link with Australian culture is highlighted several times during the communique. For example, it says: “Since European settlement, alcohol has played a central role in the social, economic and political culture of NSW.” Elsewhere it adds, “The Summit recognises that alcohol abuse is largely driven by cultural factors.” Even solutions will require “a cultural change” in the form of a “a sustained approach to informing the community of the social and economic and health costs of alcohol misuse.”

Because alcohol is consumed in licensed premises, sporting venues, special events and the home, this cultural change will be needed at all levels û among the young, families, schools, societies, the media and advertising industry. Strategies will need to be tailored to the specific circumstances of each of these environments, the communique says.

The summit emphasises the need to encourage “safe and responsible drinking” at all levels. “Alcohol abuse prevention should involve the whole community working in partnership with the government,” the communique says. “This approach needs to include all sectors of government and non-government agencies. Strategies should be tailored for specific communities, be evidence-based, and planning should include a sustainable framework through continuous evaluation and funding.”

The communiqu? suggests the use of positive messages, involvement of role models and development of an annual Alcohol Awareness Week. It calls for a national public inquiry into alcohol taxation in a way that would allow greater price incentives for low alcohol products. At the same time, it says the liquor industry should be required to set aside a percentage of its advertising budget for harm minimisation programmes.

It talks of the need to “build resilience among teenagers” and help young people make wise choices about alcohol use. A good deal of attention is devoted to alcohol abuse among the indigenous aboriginal community. One of several recommendations is for the establishment of locally relevant aboriginal treatment services across the state, beginning with five-year demonstration programmes developed, implemented and delivered by the aboriginal people.

The communiqu? urges support for aborigines in “reclaiming kinship and culture” to unify communities and families, engagement with aboriginal community leaders to convey a range of messages on alcohol use, support locally-based and locally determined approaches; allocate resources for peer support programmes for aboriginal communities, and the hiring of more aboriginal police officers.

In one of the more unusual recommendations, the communique urges government and community discussion about the practicality of adopting varying ‘dry’ options in selected areas, and not necessarily just in relation to aboriginal community. It suggests taking a trial package of initiatives and testing them as a pilot case in more remote towns.

As sports events are a venue for binge drinking, the communique says that “the acceptability of inappropriate alcohol use at sporting events, by both participants and spectators, should be challenged.” It suggests restricted sale of alcohol at sports events, encouraging high profile sports people to promote non-drinking and responsible alcohol use, and reviewing alcohol sponsorship of motor sports and under-age events.

The media (that’s me) is also told to play its role (this article does exactly that); the communique suggests that the media needs to be “further engaged and fully briefed on alcohol harms”. It suggests the targeting of popular culture media, such as soaps, to influence story lines about alcohol, and the establishment of an index of statistics to measure the success or otherwise of progress in combating alcohol abuse. It calls for consideration to be given to greater government involvement in regulating promotion of alcohol use through TV, internet sites and print, liquor industry generation and events sponsorship, and advertising.

Curiously, the hospitality industry gains only a sole mention; the involvement of the Australian Hotel Association is sought to address the issue of drunk patrons exiting licensed premises. This has clearly left open a huge window of opportunity for serious researchers who will find no shortage of study topics — from motorcycle deaths in Bali and Samui to high divorce rates among travel industry executives, absenteeism and assaults on air-crew by drunken passengers.

One area of suggested further research is “a fundamental exploration of the links between alcohol misuse and Australian culture with a view to identifying ways to decrease the impact of these links in key areas such as sport and leaving school.” The communique calls for campaigns to “reduce the cultural acceptance of high levels of drinking and to encourage people to seek interventions.”

Stressing that “alcohol misuse is everybody’s responsibility,” the summit urged the NSW government to identify by November 2003 the programs and allocations required to implement the recommendations, establish means to measure success and report back to the NSW parliament by 2004 on the progress made.

Further details are available at http://www.alcoholsummit.nsw.gov.au



The Global Wine Tourism Awards are to be launched at a Wine Tourism Conference to be held between 2nd û5th May, 2004, in Margaret River, Western Australia. To be judged by academics involved with international wine tourism and authors of international wine tourism publications, the awards will be sponsored by an international media network and offer winning participants international exposure of their products and wine regions.

The awards evening will be the grand finale event of the conference which was first held in 1998. Among the objectives of the 2004 conference are to showcase the world’s wine regions, share key market intelligence and create a database and web presence for global wine tourism.

Key issues will include strengthening the links between the wine and tourism industries, and between international tourism and global distribution of wines, setting quality service benchmarks across the wine regions; better targetting wine tourists and making better use of existing research. One key question that will also be explored is: Safety, security and environmental issues and their impact on wine tourism.

The Centre for Wine Excellence at the new Margaret River Educational Campus scheduled to open in Margaret River Western Australia in February 2004, will be launched during the conference. The centre will become an important piece of regional infrastructure and will provide a focus for research and training for the rapidly expanding wine industry of Western Australia.

In addition to tourism industry representatives, the conference is targetting attendance by wine export groups, wine marketing companies, winery owners, restaurant owners, wine & tourism wholesalers, academics and educational and training groups.

Wine & Tourism are considered ‘perfect partners’ in Australia. Nationally, 3.5 million domestic tourists included a winery visit as part of their trip, a Bureau of Tourism Research report has found. Wine lovers are big spenders at A$849 a trip û 78 per cent more than the average expenditure by domestic visitors. A summary of the characteristics of domestic wine tourists and recent trends in domestic wine tourism including visitation to popular domestic wine tourism destinations can be found in Tourism Research Report (Volume 5 Number 1) Autumn 2003.




A guide to microbreweries in the Australian state of Victoria has been launched by state Tourism Minister John Pandazopoulos to unlock their potential as tourism attractions. The Beer Lover’s Guide to Victoria’s Microbreweries profiles 15 boutique brewers in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, many of which also offer tours, accommodation and fine dining.

Mr Pandazopoulos said while beer remains the most popular beverage in Australia, the premium beer and microbrewery segments are showing the strongest growth. “Australians are becoming much more discerning and adventurous in our tastes, seeking more variety and combining a love of beer with a growing appreciation of fine food. Victoria is a great place to experience this new phenomenon. The State is recognised in Australia and overseas for our exceptional restaurants, bars, wineries and cafes.”

Victoria is home to the largest brewer and grower crop of innovative microbreweries in Australia and the Guide makes it easier for locals and visitors alike to explore some of them. Visitors can learn about the art of brewing at 15 boutique breweries in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria including the James Squire Brewhouse in Melbourne’s CBD, Gunn Island Brewbar in Middle Park, Mountain Goat Beer in Richmond and the Rifle-Brigade Pub-Brewery in Bendigo.

A brief history of each of the breweries is included in the guide along with a list of the beers they produce, contact details and opening hours. Many of the businesses profiled in the guide also offer tours, accommodation and fine dining options like the Jamieson Brewery in Jamieson that has special ‘beer dishes’ that have been created to complement their range of beers.

Funded by the State Government through Regional Development Victoria, the guide will be distributed free through visitor information centres, local and regional tourism associations, hospitality industry outlets including hotels, bars, and restaurants and the microbreweries themselves.



By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent, The Guardian, UK

08 September 2003

The vision of legless teenagers toppling into the gutter with a pint of beer in one hand and a greasy kebab in the other has exercised clean-living ministers for years. And now Tony Blair’s strategy unit, charged with finding a solution to the rise in drunken behaviour in young people, believes that it has found the culprit: vertical drinking.

The unit has identified this phenomenon – otherwise known as standing around in a pub downing pint after pint until closing time – as the main component of binge drinking.

Downing Street’s keenest minds believe that introducing a more sedentary style of drinking, as found in continental caf?s, could persuade young people to imbibe more reservedly and with greater discrimination. This more measured approach, which could be accompanied by distracting snacks, might stop them ending up horizontal on the street.

A report on alcohol misuse, to be published later this year by the strategy unit, will suggest that the Government’s alcohol harm reduction strategy should try to end the “vertical drinking culture”. The report, which will underpin a change in policy at the Department of Health and the Home Office, is designed to tackle the increase in binge drinking which is a factor in youth crime and violence.

The unit believes that cut-price drinks, often offered for only a short time during “happy hours”, is also encouraging rapid boozing. “Vertical drinking is a key issue,” said one Downing Street source. “If everybody is standing up and drinking 15 tequilas for a pound each that is a problem.”

The unit has studied trends in drunkenness throughout the country and looked at which kind of establishments have the worst record of violence after closing time. They have found that traditional pubs or “places where there aren’t any seats” are among the worst and encourage people to drink more.

This is creating “no-go areas” in town centres where youths behave aggressively, and drive local people away. “It’s very noticeable that places where you can sit down you don’t have that culture of drunkenness. All Bar One is the sort of place where you don’t get trouble,” said the source.

The researchers have also looked at the effects of alcohol misuse, which include violence, petty crime and damage to health. A report by the unit this month will produce figures showing an increase in binge drinking while a final report by the end of the year will recommend solutions. They are examining how to tempt adult drinkers to return to pubs dominated by aggressive teenagers. They believe adults may have a moderating influence on the youths.

Three years ago the Prime Minister was forced to water down a proposal for police to frogmarch offenders to the nearest cash machine to pay spot fines, when police told him this was unworkable. But the Government has launched a number of initiatives, including issuing tickets which can be paid later. Regional trials of ú40 and ú80 penalties for drunkenness and rowdy behaviour are expected to be extended nationally, even though a recent Home Office study showed that only half the fines were paid on time.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2001, alcohol was responsible for 7 per cent of deaths among young men. Twenty years ago the figure was only 2 per cent.

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