We need more than just laws to ensure responsible alcohol service – The Conversation AU

Australian law prohibits the sale of alcohol to drunk people. Despite the shifting sands of alcohol policy, Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) legislation has remained a stalwart figure.

In Australia, RSA imposes mandatory training requirements for liquor industry workers to educate alcohol servers about signs of intoxication, when to refuse service, and the harms of over-service. Internationally, RSA training is considered a cost-effective strategy to reduce the sale of alcohol to drunk people.

However, there is little evidence that training alone reduces the propensity for over-service. It may have some effect when coupled with penalties for sales to drunk people and strict enforcement.

Given the longstanding restrictions on the sale of alcohol to intoxicated patrons, it seems perplexing that public drunkenness remains a notable problem – especially when we consider that public knowledge about RSA in Australia appears to be extremely high.

In the 2015 Global Drug Survey of alcohol and drug users, Australian respondents were overwhelmingly aware that it is illegal for bar staff to serve an intoxicated patron.

Awareness varied across states. South Australians were the least aware: 85.2% responded it was illegal to serve alcohol to a drunk person. Western Australians were most aware: 94.7% responded it was illegal.

In spite of this high awareness, a large proportion of respondents also agreed that a drunk person would be served alcohol in Australian licensed venues.

Again, agreement varied across states. In New South Wales, 45% of respondents agreed that a drunk person would be served alcohol. More than 60% of Victorian respondents agreed a drunk person would be served – despite the practice being illegal.

These statistics seem to suggest that current RSA legislation is effective in increasing public knowledge about responsible alcohol service of alcohol, but it may not be effective in deterring public drunkenness or encouraging

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