The New South Wales (NSW) state government is planning to bring in new laws to allow takeaway alcohol sales permanently.
Take away alcohol was ushered in during the COVID-19 lockdowns by the alcohol industry. It was a temporary measure till now. Takeaway from restaurants used to account for only about 8% of restaurant sales before the pandemic. Now this figure has risen to 30%. This means the pandemic has changed the way people consume alcohol and the alcohol industry is exploiting the changes to cash in on this trend towards even more home alcohol consumption.
This policy change to make takeaway alcohol permanent increases alcohol availability in NSW and drives alcohol harm. The change has already led to concerning practices: some vendors have begun selling alcohol for take away in plastic bags – similar to the sachet alcohol previously sold in many African countries but now outlawed in most, due to the heavy harm these products caused to society.
The takeaway alcohol is sold in packets much similar to the sachet alcohol which used to be sold in African countries. Nigeria, Uganda and Ivory Coast have all banned this harmful packaging while Australia appears to be bringing it back in the guise of “takeaway” alcohol. The reason why this packaging was banned by most African countries is that sachet alcohol was making alcohol easily and widely available – causing alcohol problems in communities, especially also for children and youth.
This new laws by the NSW government spells more harm for people and communities. Already in Australia, alcohol is too cheap, easily available and heavily marketed. This fuels widespread alcohol harm and drains much needed resources from society. A recent study published by the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) at Curtin University in Perth exposed the drain of resources due to the products and practices of the alcohol industry in Australia. The study, called “Examining the Social and Economic Costs of Alcohol Use in Australia: 2017/18” found:
Conservatively estimated, the cost of harm caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry to the Australian people are $66.8 billion.
Behind the figures of tangible and intangible costs are thousands of real life stories of Australians harmed by the alcohol industry.
The pandemic only made matters worse. The alcohol industry exploited the ongoing pandemic to market alcohol even more and push people to buy and use more alcohol. A report, released last year by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, found that people in Australia were exposed to an alcohol advertisement every 35 seconds on Facebook and Instagram during the pandemic.
As Movendi International has previously reported:
- There was an 8.3% increase in Australian deaths caused by alcohol in 2020 compared to 2019.
- For the first time in four years, the number of Australians who use alcohol has increased in 2020.
The move to bring in sachet alcohol under the new “takeaway” alcohol laws is bound to further increase the harm caused by alcohol products.