Background Raising duty on alcohol across the board can reduce morbidity, mortality and other adverse consequences of alcohol use. However, effectiveness is less certain for measures that target specific types of alcohol beverage in isolation. One example from Australia was the increase in tax on alcopops favoured by young people to curb risky drinking in this demographic.
Methods We measured alcohol-related health harms in 15–29-year-olds presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in Queensland following the tax increase. These presentations were compared with following ED controls: (1) 15–29-year-olds with asthma or appendicitis; and (2) 30–49-year-olds presenting with alcohol-related harms. We analysed data over a 5-year period (April 2005–April 2010) using a time series analysis. This covered 3 years before, and 2 years after, the tax increase. We investigated both mental and behavioural consequences (F10 codes), and intentional/unintentional injuries (S and T codes).
Results We fitted an ARIMA (autoregressive integrated moving average) model to test for a change following the increased ‘alcopops’ tax in April 2008. There was no significant decrease in alcohol-related ED presentations in 15–29-year-olds compared to any of the controls. We found similar results for males and females, narrow and broad definitions of alcohol-related harms, under-19s and ED presentations at night-time and weekends.
Conclusions The increase in tax on ‘alcopops’ did not result in any reduction in alcohol-related harms in this population. Targeting particular alcoholic drinks may therefore not be as effective as more comprehensive policies such as minimum unit pricing for alcohol.
- Epidemiology of chronic non communicable diseases