THE NSW Health Minister, John Della Bosca, will seek tougher restrictions on alcohol advertising at a meeting of health ministers today as NSW hospital figures revealed a huge rise in the number of drunk young people being treated in emergency departments.
Mr Della Bosca said a Federal Government report found that a total advertising ban could reduce drinking by 25 per cent and road fatalities by 30 per cent. It could also cut the social costs of alcohol abuse by $3.86 billion.
"The Garling report, released last week, advises that we need to focus on prevention when dealing with the health and well-being of children and young people.
"We need to avoid creating a new generation of binge drinkers and to do that we need to use preventive strategies such as restricting alcohol advertising.
"The cost of alcohol abuse to the community nationally is estimated to be more than $15 billion, which is mostly made up of sickies, road accidents and health care."
Mr Della Bosca said he would call for tougher advertising restrictions at the Australian health ministers' conference in Brisbane.
"According to NSW Health data, since 2000, the biggest increase in alcohol-related emergency department admissions has been among 18 to 24-year-olds, up 130 per cent, while female admissions within that group have risen 200 per cent.
"While law enforcement and licensing controls are powerful means to target alcohol abuse, related crime and antisocial behaviour - and NSW is taking strong action on this front by legislating mandatory 2am lock outs - we also need preventive strategies."
Mr Della Bosca said a National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that more than 72 per cent of people aged 14 or older supported a blanket ban on alcohol advertisements. Almost half supported banning alcohol sponsorship of sporting events.
"Alcohol advertising is among the most sophisticated and persuasive I have seen and it is increasingly clear alcohol companies are not prepared to take a responsible approach on this matter.
"Anyone sitting down to watch the cricket on TV this summer is bombarded with an endless stream of advertisements for beer and spirits. It is time we took the influence that alcohol advertising can have on our younger people seriously."
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