Bendigo Community Health Services has praised alcohol sale outlets for their proactive approach to stopping underage drinking.
The organisation has monitored bottle shops for the past three years as part of a Smart Generation Program and our commitment to promoting health and wellbeing in the community.
Two 18-year-olds of underage appearance visited 28 Bendigo bottle shops on two separate occasions in 2016, 2017 and 2018 to buy alcohol without proof-of-age identification.
BCHS wrote to all bottle shops after the first visit to share the results and a reminder of laws around the sale of alcohol to people under the age of 18 before repeating the process to look for any change in behaviour.
The audit found 67 per cent of outlets sold alcohol without the presentation of identification in the first two years but showed a dramatic improvement to only 30 per cent in 2018.
BCHS health promotion worker Isabel Nichol-Smith said the findings showed alcohol outlets were improving their practices.
“In the first two years we had a case where one bottle shop did the right thing and asked for the correct ID but sold the alcohol anyway when that wasn’t produced which isn’t good practice. So to see a huge improvement last year is very encouraging,” Ms Nichol-Smith said.
Ms Nichol-Smith said the attitudes of young people to drinking continued to improve and the support of alcohol sale outlets was vital in ensuring the trend continued.
A 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found 80 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds had not consumed alcohol which compared very favourably to a Federal Government survey in 2014 that found 68 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds were getting alcohol from home, friends or buying themselves from a bottle shop.
A 2017 study confirmed drinking among older students had continued to decline with fewer having consumed alcohol in their lifetime than any year since 1984 and those who did drink consuming less amounts.
Ms Nichol-Smith said BCHS would continue to monitor alcohol sale outlets in the hope they remained vigilant.
“It’s policy in many alcohol outlets to ask for proof-of-age ID if someone looks under 25. This is a ‘best-practice’ approach supported by government and industry groups and should be encouraged,” she said.
Ms Nichol-Smith said the owners of alcohol sales outlets must continue to ensure staff are aware selling alcohol to teenagers is not only illegal but puts the health of young people at risk.
“One day we would love to say we couldn’t find a single alcohol outlet that sold to a person that looked under 18 without the correct identification,” she said.
To learn more about Bendigo Community Health Services and our programs visit www.bchs.com.au or call (03) 5448 1600.