A collection of miniature bottles of alcohol. Credit Yair Tsipory, Wikimedia

Tonight I’ll be having…poison! On-demand alcohol delivery services and the danger they pose to public health

Tonight I’ll be having…poison! On-demand alcohol delivery services and the danger they pose to public health

Dr Michelle I Jongenelis, Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director, Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change

In case you were worried about how you would survive when you can’t get to the bottle shop, fear not! UberEats has launched a campaign to make sure you know just how easy it is to get your poison delivered.

This comes weeks after it was revealed that alcohol delivery service ‘Jimmy Brings’ was being investigated over the death of a man to whom they delivered three bottles of wine almost daily in the weeks before his death.

UberEats has wasted (pardon the pun) no time telling consumers that their favourite whiskies and wines are now available for delivery via their platform.

It is hard to know where to begin with this. Somehow UberEats has managed to undermine two of the three ‘Best Buys’ recommended by the World Health Organization: restrictions on the availability of alcoholic beverages, and comprehensive restrictions or bans on alcohol advertising.

We need to be doing more, not less, to prevent commercial enterprises from profiting off the sale of products that are detrimental to health. The alcohol industry is no exception, especially in light of recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing an 8.3% increase in alcohol-related deaths.

The use of online alcohol delivery services during the pandemic has been found to be associated with heavier drinking. Pre-pandemic data collected by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education suggests on-demand alcohol delivery orders promote extended drinking sessions. More than a quarter of 18- to 69-year-olds who reported receiving an on-demand order stated that they would have stopped drinking had the service not been available.

Data from this same report also suggests that on-demand alcohol delivery orders promote intoxication. Of those who received an on-demand order, 69% reported consuming five+ drinks on the same occasion as their order, while 22% reported making the order because they were too drunk to drive to a store.

Concerningly, deliveries are being made without ID checks. In an audit of the supply practices of online liquor retailers in NSW, nearly 80% did not require that someone over the age 18 years accept the order, and 60% were in breach of legislative requirements for failing to require a date of birth from purchasers.

It’s bad enough that alcohol was considered an “essential good” during the pandemic. Now we have alcohol delivery services that are subject to little regulation flourishing while people are languishing.

Oh, and let’s not forget the relaxation of liquor licensing restrictions that occurred in most States during the pandemic, which allowed any licensed venue to sell alcohol for takeaway and home delivery.

The pandemic provided Australia with an opportunity to implement the World Health Organization’s Best Buys. Instead, we did the opposite.

What a missed opportunity.

Image: Yair Tsipory/Wikimedia

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