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Friday, July 5, 2013

The impact of cutting alcohol duties on drinking patterns in Hong Kong


In an effort to promote Hong Kong as a global wine hub, the government eliminated duties on wine and beer in 2008. The changes in alcohol consumption patterns are examined.

Anonymous, cross-sectional telephone surveys on a random sample of Chinese male and female residents aged 18–70 were carried out in 2011 (n = 4800) and 2012 (n = 1001). These data were compared with those of a 2006 (n = 9896) baseline survey conducted before the excise tax elimination.

Prevalence of those ever drinking alcohol significantly increased from the 2006 baseline level of 66.6% to 82.0% in 2011 and to 85.2% in 2012. Of note, 10.2% of ever drinkers within the 2012 sample reported consuming alcohol for the first time in or after 2008. Younger, more educated or more affluent parts of the population are more likely to be ever drinkers. Unexpectedly, prevalence of binge drinking in the population decreased slightly from the 2006 baseline of 9.0% to 7.1% in 2011 and to 7.3% in 2012. Quantity of alcohol reportedly consumed by individuals did not change, while alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence levels decreased. However, binge drinking prevalence among the unemployed has increased. Logistic regression showed that those with lower educational achievement and the unemployed have higher likelihood of binge drinking.

The government appears to have achieved its objective of making Hong Kong a world center for alcohol trade. However, the resulting access locally to cheaper alcohol has been associated with an increase in the numbers of those drinking alcohol. There has been a trend toward more adults drinking alcohol and greater risk of harm to some disadvantaged groups.

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