11 April 2023; The New Daily Australia, George Hyde
The surge in alcohol deliveries is a cause for concern, as Australian households spent $13.1 billion buying food and alcohol online in the past year – an 11.4 per cent year-on-year increase – according to an Australia Post report. “Alcohol use causes far too much harm to so many Australians. It contributes to chronic diseases, family violence and child protection incidents and leads to hospitalisations and deaths,” Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi said. “Because of the harms that we know alcohol causes to families and communities, we need to make sure we have the right protections in place to keep people healthy and safe.”
Services used as a ‘top up’
One of FARE’s main concerns is the rapid delivery of alcohol, with people able to get alcohol to their home within 30 minutes of ordering. Ms Giorgi said that “every phone is a bottle shop”, making it difficult for those trying to avoid or cut back on alcohol consumption to escape the constant marketing and sales tactics. Nearly 40 per cent of people who buy alcohol through rapid delivery services admit to consuming 11 or more standard drinks on that occasion, suggesting these services are often used as a “top up” for people who may already be intoxicated, research shows, she said. There is a lack of adequate data protection measures for online sales, Ms Giorgi said, and companies may be using consumer data to target marketing efforts at people with alcohol problems.
According to a report published by FARE, three-quarters of alcoholic products sold in Australia are purchased by the heaviest drinking 20 per cent of the population, while more than a third is sold to the heaviest drinking 5 per cent. A recent study by the University of New South Wales revealed a strong link between rapid online sales and delivery, and increased harm. The study found that 20 per cent of participants had used rapid delivery services to extend a home drinking session because they had run out of alcohol. Among these individuals, 34 per cent said they would have stopped drinking if the rapid delivery service was unavailable.
Call for better regulation
One of the study’s authors, Stephanie Colbert, a PhD candidate from the School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine and Health, said there was a need for better regulation. “In New South Wales, they’ve mandated responsible service of alcohol training for delivery drivers delivering on the same day it’s ordered. But even in NSW, that could be improved; you could make it for all delivery drivers.”
Danica Keric, chair of the Cancer Council’s Alcohol Working Group, told TND that laws had not kept pace with the fast development in the online alcohol industry. Ms Keric said there is a need for a two-hour safety pause between online purchase and delivery to curb high-risk drinking. She also called for digital ID checks at the point of sale, delivery ID and intoxication checks for every purchase, and a limit on late-night deliveries between 10pm and 10am. “We need to prevent predatory marketing by online alcohol companies that targets people who are most vulnerable,” she said. “Alcohol companies have a responsibility to make sure that they are not harming our communities.”
Anyone concerned about their own levels of consumption can find resources and support on the FARE Australia website.