Opinion Former Article

UK alcohol laws should look Down Under to tackle crime and disorder

New report finds Australian 'Last Drinks' policies reduce harms associated with late-night drinking

Shorter hours of sale for alcohol could ease the pressure on ambulances, emergency departments, hospitals and the police, suggests a study of licensing laws in Australia and the UK.

This is the key finding from a new report published today by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (UK) and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education – FARE (Australia).

Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere? compares and assesses alcohol licensing policies in Australia and the UK and offers a series of recommendations on how to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm based on shared learnings. This is the first comparative study of alcohol availability policies in these two countries, which share similar drinking cultures.

Fourteen alcohol control policies were rated for their effectiveness in reducing harm and value for money using an 'alcohol availability scorecard'. Australia’s ‘Last Drinks’ policy, which requires venues to restrict on-premises (pubs, bars and restaurants etc) alcohol sales after a specified time at night or in the early hours of the morning, scored highest. The lowest scoring policies were alcohol industry voluntary schemes and UK Late Night Levies.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Kypros Kypri, Professor of Public Health at University of Newcastle, Australia said:

“There is strong evidence to show that earlier closing times can make a significant difference to the strain alcohol places on emergency services. In Sydney, bringing forward closing times to 3am was associated with a 25% reduction in alcohol-related presentations to the local hospital.”

Each year across the UK there are over 22,000 alcohol-related deaths and 1.1 million hospital admissions. Alcohol places a huge burden on ambulances, emergency departments, hospitals and the police across the UK and makes emergency servicepeople’s lives and jobs harder. A previous IAS report looking into alcohol’s impact on the emergency services saw calls from frontline staff for policy action to curb alcohol harm, including earlier closing times for pubs and bars. The majority of police officers reported spending over half their time dealing with alcohol-related problems and a shocking 76% had received an injury whilst dealing with a drunken member of the public.

Commenting on the report, Jon Foster, Senior Research and Policy Officer at IAS said:

“Even modest reductions in bar opening times would take the pressure off hard pressed A&E departments, who would undoubtedly welcome a 25% reduction in alcohol-related admissions, as happened in Australia. Legislation should empower licensing authorities to curb excessively late opening times for clubs and bars where these are causing a problem.”

The report offers 10 recommendations for reducing alcohol-related harms through existing licensing policy frameworks. These include:

·        Restricting trade hours of on-licence venues to limit the availability of alcohol in the early hours of the morning
·        Enhancing community involvement, better facilitating the engagement of local residents with licensing systems
·        Adding / prioritising public health and / or harm minimisation objectives in alcohol legislation
·        Restricting the sales of high risk products in areas of concern; and
·        Deprioritising government support for industry voluntary schemes in place of policies supported by evidence.

This report follows the publication of an inquiry into the Licensing Act (2003) by a cross-party committee of Lords published earlier this year, which concluded that it is “fundamentally flawed” and in need of “a major overhaul.”

ENDS


Notes to Editors

The report Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere? Addressing physical availability of alcohol in Australia and the UK will be free to view / download here: http://bit.lyanytmplcwhr

You can also download the following:

·        The Licensing Act 2003: post-legislative scrutiny |  https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldlicact/146/146.pdf
·        The Licensing Act (2003): its uses and abuses 10 years on | http://bit.ly/la03IAS
·        Alcohol’s impact on the emergency services video | https://vimeo.com/143022792

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to stop the harm caused by alcohol. For over a decade, FARE has been working with communities, governments, health professionals and police across the country to stop alcohol harms by supporting world-leading research, raising public awareness and advocating for changes to alcohol policy.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) is an independent institute bringing together evidence, policy and practice from home and abroad to promote an informed debate on alcohol’s impact on society. Our purpose is to advance the use of the best available evidence in public policy decisions on alcohol.

Professor Kypros Kypri and Jon Foster are available for interviews. For media enquiries, please contact Habib Kadiri at hkadiri@ias.org.uk or on 0207 222 4001.

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