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Population Level Policies on Alcohol

Sally Casswell, PhD
Director, Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit
Professor, Department of Community Health, University of Auckland

The research finding that a reduced risk of coronary heart disease is associated with alcohol use has been widely disseminated. This paper addresses the significance of this for population based policies to reduce alcohol harm reduction, such as taxation affecting price, restrictions on availability and advertising, minimum drinking age laws and drink drive deterrence.

A review of the effectiveness of these strategies provides strong support for 'environmental' policies rather than targeting education at high risk drinkers. Environmental policies seem unlikely to reduce 'heart healthy' drinking by the older people whom it may benefit, and can reduce risk of loss of life or disability among younger drinkers.

It is concluded that the evidence of a reduced risk of coronary heart disease associated with alcohol use does not provide a compelling argument against the utilisation of the effective population level and environmental strategies.

The above summaries the arguments of an article by Professor Casswell, 'Population level policies on alcohol' Addiction Supplement 1997: S81-S90.

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