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Graphic warnings to fight alcohol abuse

Graphic warnings to fight alcohol abuse

Tue July 10, 2012 7:03pm

"DEMON drink'' is the new health battleground, with higher taxes, drinking ages and graphic warnings similar to those on tobacco products touted as ways to fight alcohol-related birth defects.

Giving evidence at a federal hearing into foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in Perth, Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies communications officer Deanne Ferris noted an alarming rise in alcohol-related treatment across the state.

Ms Ferris told the hearing Australia's "drinking culture'' - especially in WA - was the reason alcohol now accounted for half of all substance-abuse treatments in the state, rising from 33 per cent in 2004 to 49 per cent in 2009-10.

"It's an alarming jump and it's putting increasing pressure on services,'' she told the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

Ms Ferris suggested graphic warning labels on drinks packaging - similar to those legislated for tobacco products - would be one way to stop women drinking while pregnant, reducing the incidence of FASD.

She noted up to 40 per cent of women with substance abuse problems had given birth to children with FASD, and that those with the disorder were more likely to commit crimes.

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth executive Julia Stafford said about half of all pregnancies in Australia were unplanned, meaning many women weren't aware they were drinking while pregnant.

She said her organisation supported drink-label warnings, but wanted legislation to go further, raising the minimum drinking age, levying higher taxes, and restricting business hours and outlets that sold alcohol.

National Drug Research Institute professor Tanya Chikritzhs said there was a "mistaken belief alcohol consumption had flat-lined or fallen in Australia'', when it had risen over the past 20 years.

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