Dear Editor,

I am a recently retired General Practitioner with 32 years experience at Springs Medical, Daylesford and as a Visiting Medical Officer at Daylesford Hospital. My sub speciality in general practice is Drug and Alcohol issues. I have a Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies from Flinders University.

Alcohol consumption can be an enjoyable and relaxing part of life, however during my time in general practice I have encountered many problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption . These include, but are not limited to, motor vehicle accidents (sometimes fatal), alcohol related violence, chronic liver disease, relationship breakdown, mental health disturbance including suicide and increased rates of common cancers such as bowel and breast cancer.

The latest National Health and Medical Research Council recommendations are that 10 standard drinks a week is considered the upper limit of safe alcohol consumption. I can  clearly recall that I previously have recommended to men that 28 standard drinks a week was a safe level of consumption.

Very careful examination of overall health statistics over the years has revised downwards our estimates of safe alcohol consumption. Fortunately there has been a gradual reduction in average alcohol consumption in Australia particularly amongst young people.

We know from Local Government Authority statistics that Daylesford conforms to about state average in excessive alcohol consumption.  9.3% of the adult population consume alcohol at hazardous levels above 8 standard drinks a day. Average income is significantly below state average and many people rely on social welfare payments. Hepburn Shire’s health statistics reveal below state average life expectancy and as with other rural residents,  less access to medical services that are available to our city counterparts.

It is generally accepted that alcohol consumption is related to availability and unit price. Greater availability and lower unit price increase alcohol related harms. Daylesford already has many alcohol outlets including 2 bottle shops, a bowling club, 2 wine bars, an RSL, several hotels and many restaurants.

I strongly oppose the opening of a large, high volume, low cost alcohol outlet, as it will almost certainly be associated with increased alcohol related harms, particularly to the residents of Daylesford.

Dr Gregory Stewart