NT, Australia: MUP Proven to Be Effective

Alcohol-related harm, ambulance call outs and car crashes have all dramatically declined in the Northern Territory since the introduction of a minimum price on the cost of alcohol.

The Northern Territory in Australia was the first jurisdiction to implement the minimum unit price (MUP) policy in the country. MUP has been in effect since October 2018. More than a year later, preliminary evaluation results are proving MUP to be effective in reducing alcohol harm in the territory.

MUP was introduced in NT along with other alcohol policy reforms to reduce the staggering alcohol harm in the territory. Health data had found:

  • 44% Territorians engaged in heavy alcohol use comparative to the 26% national average,
  • Alcohol was related to high rates of injury due to interpersonal violence, road traffic crashes and family violence, and
  • The cost of alcohol-related harm to the NT economy and society was estimated at $1.3 billion each year.

The Territorian government introduced the floor price legislation to cut alcohol-related crime, anti-social behaviour and harm.

The MUP policy targets cheap alcohol widely bought by heavy alcohol users and those in lower socio-economic standing. In NT, the MUP was set at $1.30 per standard unit of alcohol. One of the cheapest available alcohol before MUP was cask wine. The policy increased the price of cask wine by 86%.

The price increase has resulted in a reported drop in wholesale supply of cask wine.

The Nothern Territory government conducted an independent review of their MUP policy recently and found the policy linked to decreases in alcohol harm including reductions in alcohol-related,

  • assault offences,
  • protective custody episodes,
  • ambulance attendances,
  • emergency department presentations,
  • road traffic crashes, and
  • number of child protection notifications, protection orders, and out-of-home care cases

Among the findings are,

  • a 23% reduction in alcohol related assaults across the Territory in 2018/19 compared to the same period in 2017/18;
  • a 17.3% reduction in emergency department presentations in the NT in 2018/19 compared to the same period in 2017/18.

The number of child protection notifications, protection orders, and out-of-home care cases decreased too.

We’re certainly seeing some positive outcomes for a very targeted measure,” said the researchers who conducted the review, as per ABC News.

Researchers also say even more comprehensive results will be found after the 3 year review due in 2021.

Deakin University’s Professor Peter Miller, who led the research, said although the outcomes were promising and provided a baseline, longer-term evaluations were needed.

Changes in social trends require more time to be certain,” he said according to Canberra Times.

The methods used in this report have allowed for an assessment of changes across a range of outcomes. And the staggered implementation of different policy elements in different locations allows for some teasing out of differential impacts.”

Health experts commend the NT government while Big Alcohol attacks the policy

Doctors, surgeons and health groups have welcomed the positive effects of MUP in NT.

Dr John Crozier, Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Trauma Committee, commended the NT Government for its commitment to the MUP policy, despite Big Alcohol’s aggressive attack against the policy.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has called for MUP across the country citing the positive effects in NT.

Despite these positive results for Territorians, Big Alcohol is against MUP and is trying to create doubt about the results of the review. Alcohol industry lobby group Retail Drinks Australia – whose members are among others alcohol giants Asahi, Campari Diageo, and Uber – is saying the evaluation is “flawed” stating the results of MUP can not be isolated from the overall results of alcohol policies.

However, the researchers of the review have explained that the results can very well be isolated for the case of Darwin, as the policy of liquor inspectors outside outlets are not implemented here. The researchers are confident the reductions in alcohol harm in Darwin are primarily due to MUP.

The lobby group is also trying to draw attention away from the significant positive results of MUP by saying the review does not focus on the impact on heavy alcohol users.

Dr. Crozier called out the alcohol industry for their aggressive lobbying against health policy which is good for all people in NT.

I remember when the MUP was first introduced there was a clearly orchestrated campaign from certain sections within the alcohol industry, which was unchallenged by many in the media and relied upon on false assertions while ignoring the overwhelming evidence base,” said Dr. Crozier, as per Mirage News.

The success of MUP in NT shows how important it is for governments to support practical evidence-based measures despite industry pressures. 

Download the review

Access the summary of the review for MUP in NT here.

Access the full review for MUP in NT here.

Sources:

Mirage News: “Violent assaults reducing in Northern Territory thanks to minimum alcohol price

ABC News: “Cask wine sales have fallen since the NT set a floor price on alcohol, which might be linked to harm reduction, researchers say

Canberra Times: “NT alcohol law curtails booze-related harm