Bad habits costing Australians dearly
( dpa ) - Alcohol, drugs and tobacco come with a cost: broken homes, broken families, broken lives. There is also a financial cost: for Australia, 56 billion Australian dollars (50 billion US dollars) a year in lost production, crime and accidents.
"That's an enormous amount of money," Health Minister Nicola Roxon said. In fact, it's more than the 43 billion - 18 per cent of expenditure - that goes into funding the health service each year.
There are some surprises in the figures the government came up with for 2005. The social cost of alcohol was 15 billion, less than half the 31-billion associated with cigarette smoking. Illicit drugs - the scourge that most people think of - cost the community 8 billion.
Roxon, when releasing the figures, said they were a "reminder to us of why it's so important to focus on prevention, why we need to be vigilant in our battle against tobacco, why we need to have more focus on excessive consumption of alcohol, and why we need to continue to make sure that there is a strong battle that we fight on all fronts against illicit drug use."
The problem, of course, is that it's relatively easy to treat a broken leg and very difficult to persuade people that lifestyle is linked to health.
Alcohol and tobacco are both legal substances and a great pleasure to many. Some would say illicit drugs are also something that enhances their enjoyment of life. They key to reducing the cost to society of alcohol, drugs and tobacco is getting people to see them as a health issue as well as a lifestyle option.
"Health problems are not just about fixing hospitals," Roxon said. "We actually have to fix some of the things that mean people end up in hospital."