Responsible service of alcohol                


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Release date: Monday, 28 May 2012 Embargo: 9.00am

Licensed premises are becoming more responsible servers of alcohol and young people on licensed premises are less likely to abuse alcohol, according to a new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

To assess compliance with responsible service of alcohol (RSA) guidelines, the Bureau commissioned a survey of 2,503 young adults. The survey was carried out from February to April 2011. Identical surveys were conducted in 2002 and 2006.

Respondents in the survey were asked a number of questions about how much they drank. Those whose drinking exceeded the 2001 National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) guidelines for acute risk drinking were asked how many drinks they had had on the last occasion and where it occurred.

Subsequent questions were restricted to those respondents who had been drinking beyond the acute-risk guidelines at a licensed premises on the last occasion.  

Eligible respondents were asked then asked to indicate whether they showed any of the following five signs of intoxication: (1) loss of coordination; (2) slurred speech; (3) staggering or falling over; (4) spilling drinks and (5) loud or quarrelsome behaviour.

Those patrons who indicated that they had shown at least one of the five signs at a licensed premises were then asked how the licensed premises staff had responded to these observable signs of intoxication.

The RSA response options were:

1. they refused to serve me any more alcoholic drinks;

2. they asked me to leave the premises;

3. they called the police;

4. they suggested I buy low- or non-alcoholic drinks;

5. they suggested that I buy some food;

6. they advised me on or organised transport home;

7. they suggested that I stop drinking; and

8. they continued to serve me alcoholic drinks.

Sixty per cent of respondents in the 2011 sample reported that they had consumed alcohol at the acute-risk level at least once during the previous 12 months.

This was significantly lower than the 66.0 per cent who reported this in 2006. The 2011 sample also reported a lower rate of ‘at least weekly' acute-risk drinking (20.2% v 25.1%).

The percentage of respondents who reported showing at least one sign of intoxication at licensed premises decreased from 56 per cent in 2006 to 51 per cent in 2011.

The overall provision of RSA to those who reported any signs of intoxication increased from 10 per cent in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2006 and then to 19 per cent in 2011.

RSA practices also appear to have become more stringent among more intoxicated patrons. There were, for example, significant increases in:

  • the proportion of intoxicated patrons who were refused to be served any more alcoholic drinks (from 2.2 per cent in 2002 to 7.1 per cent in 2011).
  • the proportion of very intoxicated patrons asked to leave the licensed premises (from 4.2 per cent in 2006 to 12.4 per cent in 2011).
  • the proportion of intoxicated respondents reporting that they had been asked to buy low or non-alcoholic drinks (from 2.2 per cent in 2002 to 7.3 per cent in 2011).
  • The proportion of respondents who were advised to buy some food (from 1.7 per cent in 2002 to 5.2 per cent in 2011).

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn said that they showed the Government crackdown on irresponsible service of alcohol was working and that irresponsible service and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises was in decline.

"All the same, we still have a long way to go. It's worrying that more than half of those we interviewed who reported showing three or more signs of intoxication continued to be served alcohol. This percentage hasn't changed across the three surveys we've conducted."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190