Many young people regard alcohol and illicit drugs as part of the repertoire of products that facilitate socialising through intoxication. This has become a pressing public policy issue because the practice costs society dearly. Economic research supports increasing the price of alcohol to reduce harmful drinking; largely ignoring the possibility that alcohol will be replaced with illicit drugs. This project uses an innovative internet tool to canvass young Australians' responses to hypothetical changes in prices of alcoholic beverages, cannabis and ecstasy, to improve our understanding of policies designed to minimise harmful alcohol and illicit drug use.
Widespread concerns about the dangers of binge drinking by young Australians led to the National Binge Drinking Strategy in March 2008 and a 70 per cent increase in the excise accruing to RTDs (Ready–to-Drink alcoholic beverages) a month later. Missing from debates about the use of pricing policy to reduce binge drinking was recognition of the possibility that young Australians will replace their alcohol consumption with illicit drugs. Nor was there evidence of a clear understanding of the implications of alcohol price for alcohol consumption in subgroups of the Australian population.
This project aims to identify how young Australians will respond to price increases in particular types of alcohol (e.g., will they drink cheaper forms of alcohol, increase their use of illicit drugs or reduce their alcohol/drug consumption) and to determine which alcohol pricing policies would minimise excessive consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs on a typical night out.
This project uses the internet to access a representative sample of 2,400 young Australians. It asks, using an experimental behavioural economics approach, how they would adjust their alcohol and illicit drug use over a “night out” in response to hypothetical changes in the prices of alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy.
The internet survey was run in late 2011.
Carragher, N. and Chalmers, J. (2011), What are the options? Pricing and taxation policy reforms to redress excessive alcohol consumption and related harms in Australia. Crime and Justice Bulletin. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2011, June). Minimum pricing of alcohol: Hard to swallow or easy to take? NDARC Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney.
Chalmers, J.*, Sunderland, M., McKetin, R., & Bright, D. (2012, March). Pricing and taxation policy reforms to redress excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. DPMP Research Symposium, Sydney. 16 March, 2012.
Sunderland, M.*, Chalmers, J., McKetin, R., & Bright, D. (2012, August). Typologies of alcohol consumption on a Saturday night amongst young Australians. NDARC Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney, 30th August.
Sunderland, M. (2012, September). Typologies of alcohol consumption on a Saturday night. School of Public Health and Community Medicine Annual Symposium, UNSW, Sydney. 21st September.
Chalmers, J. (2012, October). The effect of two policy options - alcohol tax reform and minimum pricing of alcohol - on young Australians’ Saturday nights”. NDARC Seminar Series, UNSW, Sydney.
Sunderland, M.*, Chalmers, J., McKetin, R., & Bright, D. (2012, November). Typologies of alcohol consumption on a Saturday night among young Australian adults aged 18-30. APSAD Conference, Melbourne. 18th-21st November.
Chalmers, J.*, Sunderland, M., McKetin, R., & Bright, D. (2012, November). The effect of two alcohol pricing reform options (minimum pricing and volumetric tax) on young Australians' drinking behaviour: an online experimental study. APSAD Conference, Melbourne. 18th-21st November.
Chalmers, J., Sunderland, M., McKetin, R., & Bright, D.* (2012, November). How do increases in the retail prices of cannabis and ecstasy affect consumption patterns of alcohol and illicit drugs? 2012 ANZSOC conference, Auckland, NZ. 27th – 29th November.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2011, August). Which way forward? Weighing up the evidence base of pricing and taxation levers to redress alcohol-related harms in Australia. Poster presented at the Annual NDARC Symposium, UNSW, Sydney.
Carragher, N., & Chalmers, J. (2012, June). The alcohol policy landscape: Pricing levers to redress excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. A poster presentation at the 35th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism Scientific Meeting June 23-27, 2012.
Chalmers, J., Sunderland, M*.,Bright, D., McKetin R. (2012, August). The effect of two policy option- alcohol tax reform and minimum pricing of alcohol – on young Australian’s Saturday nights. Poster paper presented at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Symposium, Sydney, NSW. 28th August.
The BOCSAR report has achieved its aim of positioning the empirical arm of the Linkage project in the policy debate. It has been cited in an article in Addiction and grey literature, such as the Australian National Preventive Health Agency’s Draft ReportExploring the Public Interest Case for a Minimum (floor) Price for Alcohol (published in November 2012).
We also made 2 submissions to ANPHA’s Draft Report on Exploring the Public Interest Case for a Minimum (floor) Price for Alcohol: one based on the findings of the on-line survey on the implications of minimum pricing for binge drinking; and another about the perceived impediments to adopting minimum pricing in Australia.