The National Alcohol Sales Data project
Professor Tanya Chikritzhs, Professor Steve Allsop, Adjunct Associate Professor Wendy Loxley, William Gilmore and Paul Catalano, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Why did we undertake this research?
The National Alcohol Sales Data Project (NASDP) was developed in response to a 2007 Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy resolution that highlighted the absence of systematic and standardised alcohol sales data collections across Australian jurisdictions for the purpose of estimating alcohol consumption levels.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics annually publishes national per capita alcohol consumption estimates based on import, excise and domestic sales data. These national estimates were previously complemented by state and territory wholesale alcohol sales data collections, until 1997 when the High Court of Australia ruled that state liquor licensing authorities could no longer levy taxes on alcohol sales.
The Northern Territory and Western Australia continued to collect wholesale alcohol sales data after the High Court ruling, specifically for its public health importance, and although Queensland ceased their collection in 1997 they recommenced it in 2002.
The aims of the project are to:
- construct an ongoing, regularly updated, database of standardised alcohol sales data for all states/territories involved in collection
- monitor alcohol consumption trends by regularly estimating per capita alcohol consumption by region for all states/territories involved in collection
- continue to develop methods for improving accuracy of per capita alcohol consumption estimates
- encourage all states/territories to undertake alcohol sales data collection.
What did we do?
The NASDP commenced in 2009 with the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia making their wholesale alcohol sales data collections available to the project. Although only three states/territories were able to contribute data to the project, all states/territories are represented on the project’s advisory committee consisting of senior representatives from liquor licensing, health and law enforcement. The NASDP is now in its fourth stage and this year’s annual report is nearing completion.
In the first stage of the project, the Northern Territory and Western Australia made three years of wholesale alcohol sales data available (2005/06 to 2007/08), and Queensland made one year available (2007/08). At each subsequent stage of the project, one year of data has been added.
In the three participating jurisdictions, legislation requires that wholesalers submit alcohol sales returns which identify annual sales made to retailers licensed to operate within the jurisdiction to their respective liquor licensing authority. Details include differentiation of volumes of sale by major beverage type (e.g. beer, wine and spirits) which is necessary for estimating per capita pure alcohol consumption.
Per capita alcohol consumption estimates derived from wholesale alcohol sales data collections are calculated by dividing the total volume of pure alcohol purchased by retailers by the adult population aged 15 years and over. Since liquor licensing authorities hold the addresses of all retailers that have purchased alcohol from a wholesaler, it enables not only state level but regional per capita consumption estimates to be calculated.
Alcohol conversion factors were developed to convert the volumes of the different beverage types to volumes of pure alcohol. This was done by averaging the alcohol contents, by beverage type, of the brands with the largest market share. Adjustments were made for each jurisdiction accordingly.
Consideration to improving population estimates for the purpose of monitoring alcohol consumption levels has been at the forefront of discussions since the project’s inception. In Stage 1, per capita consumption estimates for the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia were calculated using census derived estimated residential population. Using estimated residential population as the denominator allows comparison of state estimates with the national estimates produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The Northern Territory liquor licensing authority also requested that per capita consumption be calculated using estimated residential population and Northern Territory collated tourism estimates.
In Stage 2 of the project, work began on developing ‘service population’ estimates in order to improve the accuracy of per capita consumption estimates. The method used adjusted estimated residential population in a jurisdiction by accounting for international visitors, interstate visitors and absent residents. In Stages 3 and 4, per capita alcohol consumption estimates for all years of available data were presented based on both estimated residential population and the newly developed estimated service populations. National consumption estimates from Australian Bureau of Statistics have also been included for comparison.
At the end of each stage a comprehensive report is published presenting trends in estimated per capita alcohol consumption at national, state/territory and regional levels. This year the report will be complemented by a bulletin which will summarise the trends and latest consumption estimates.
What did we find out?
Stage 3 results showed that in 2009/10 per capita alcohol consumption in the Northern Territory, accounting for tourist numbers, was 13.7 litres, down from 15.0 litres in 2005/06. In Queensland per capita alcohol consumption, using the developed service populations, remained relatively stable at 11 litres between 2007/08 and 2009/10, and in Western Australia was estimated at 12.4 litres in 2009/10, up from 11.2 litres in 2005/06. For both Queensland and Western Australia, per capita consumption of over 15 litres was found in the central metropolitan areas and in a number of regional areas known for their tourism and/or mobile workforces e.g. the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Margaret River region, Gascoyne, Fortescue and Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
At a state level, differences between consumption estimates based on residential populations and service populations were small, but larger differences were found at regional level. These findings suggest that using service populations is useful for presenting per capita alcohol consumption at a regional level, and they are likely to be more accurate than estimates based on residential populations alone.
The state/territory per capita consumption estimates for all participating jurisdictions are higher than the national estimate produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which was 10.5 litres in 2009/10. They are also higher than the 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines for reducing the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury – no more than 2 standard drinks a day - which equates to not exceeding a per capita alcohol consumption of 9.1 litres.
What does it mean?
Regular alcohol sales data collections across all jurisdictions will have numerous applications that will assist liquor licensing, law enforcement and health authorities in reducing the negative health and social impacts of alcohol on communities. For example, it will enable:
- close monitoring of the supply of a regulated, psychoactive substance
- reliable objective estimates of how much alcohol is actually consumed by a population or community
- provision of evidence to support the decision making process regarding variations to existing licences
- the construction of social impact models for giving an unbiased and independent prediction of the likely impacts of proposed liquor licensing changes on a range of alcohol-related harms in a community
- evidence-informed enforcement of liquor licensing legislation
- reliable objective measures for evaluating the effectiveness of national, state and local level alcohol policy initiatives.
Where to next?
The NASDP Stage 4 report and the new style bulletin will soon be published showing jurisdictional and regional trends from 2005/06 to 2010/11 for the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
The Australian Capital Territory Liquor Act and Regulation 2010 made it a requirement for wholesale licensees to submit annual returns on volumes of alcohol sold by beverage type to retailers. The first annual collection was made in 2012/13 and the data was made available to the NASDP Stage 4. However, due to incomplete returns in the first year of collection, per capita consumption estimates have not been calculated for the Australian Capital Territory. We congratulate the Australian Capital Territory for establishing the sales data collection and making the data available to the NASDP. We look forward to including the Australian Capital Territory data in future reports as the data collection process is bedded down.
Legislation to tackle alcohol related harm has recently been introduced by the Victorian Government, and this will include requiring liquor licensees to report wholesale alcohol sales data. It is anticipated that this data collection will commence in 2015/16.
In South Australia and Tasmania, collection of alcohol sales data is under consideration and consultation.
Increasing uptake of state/territory alcohol sales data collections will be beneficial to the jurisdictions involved but may also enhance data collections in other jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions currently require that wholesalers in other jurisdictions have a local liquor licence if sales are being made across state/territory borders, while others do not. The potential for wholesalers outside jurisdictions contributing to local sales within other jurisdictions is likely to be variable but highlights the value of the nationwide uptake of jurisdictional alcohol sales data collections.
For more information about the NASDP: Go to NDRI's website.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014). "4307.0.55.001 - Apparent consumption of alcohol, Australia, 2012 - 13." Accessed 25th August 2014 (link)
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). "3228.0.55.001 - Population Estimates: Concepts, Sources and Methods." Accessed 25th August 2014 (link)
Loxley, W., Gilmore, W. et al. (in press). National Alcohol Sales Data Project - Stage Four Report, 2014. Perth: National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Loxley, W., Catalano, P. et al. (2012). National Alcohol Sales Data Project - Stage Three Report, 2012. Perth: WA Drug and Alcohol Office and National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University (link)
Loxley, W., Chikritzhs, T. et al. (2011). National Alcohol Sales Data Project - Stage Two Report, 2011. Perth: WA Drug and Alcohol Office and National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University (link)
Loxley, W., Chikritzhs, T. et al. (2011). National Alcohol Sales Data Project - Stage One Report, 2009. Perth: WA Drug and Alcohol Office and National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University (link)
National Health and Medical Research Council (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra: NHMRC
Statistics Canada (2014). "Control and Sale of Alcoholic Beverages in Canada." Accessed 25th August 2014 (link)
World Health Organization (2000). International guide for monitoring alcohol consumption and related harms. Geneva: World Health Organization