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Abstract

Objective: To determine whether population levels of consumption of some alcoholic beverages are more closely associated with levels of harm than others, particularly if consumption of cask wine is more strongly related to rates of acute alcohol problems than consumption of bottled wine as a consequence of the extremely low rates of federal tax levied on the former. Method: A database of alcohol consumption and related problems was established for 130 areas of Western Australia. Demographic and economic data for these areas were included from the 1991 census. Empirically derived assumptions regarding the mean wholesale price of cask and bottled wine were utilised. Regression analyses examined the extent to which the consumption of different alcoholic beverages predicted levels of major varieties of harm. Results: Only cask wine and high-strength beer consumption were significantly associated with rates of night-time assault; consumption of all beverage varieties except bottled wine was significantly associated with rates of acute alcohol-related morbidity. Further analyses, which included controls for an effect of total alcohol consumption, confirmed the pronounced contributions of cask wine and high-strength beer to rates of night assaults and acute alcohol-related morbidity. The proportion of all alcohol consumed as low-alcohol beer was significantly negatively associated with these harms. Conclusions: The beverages most associated with rates of night-time assaults and acute alcohol-related morbidity are those with the lowest federal taxation per standard drink, i.e. cask not bottled wine and regular-strength not low-alcohol beer.