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Devilly GJ, Hides L, Kavanagh DJ. PLoS One 2019; 14(6): e0218161.


School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland, Australia.


(Copyright © 2019, Public Library of Science)






BACKGROUND: Restrictive practices on alcohol sales in entertainment districts have been introduced to reduce alcohol-related violence in youth. On 1st July 2016, the Queensland State Government (Australia) imposed a 2-hour reduction in trading hours for alcohol sales in venues within specific night-time entertainment districts (NEDS; from 5am to 3am), a reduction in maximum trading hours for venues outside NEDs (with a maximum 2am closing time), the banning of 'rapid intoxication drinks' (e.g. shots) after 12am, and no new approvals for trading hours beyond 10pm for the sale of takeaway alcohol. No independent study has evaluated general levels of intoxication, crowd numbers, fear of violence, and illicit substance use as people enter and exit NEDS, both before and after the introduction of restrictive legislation. Further, no study has assessed the impact using matched times of the year in a controlled study and also assessed actual assault rates as recorded by the police.

METHOD: We conducted 3 studies-randomly breath-testing patrons for alcohol, as they entered and exited NEDs. Study 1 assessed patrons' (n = 807) breath approximated blood alcohol concentration (BrAC) and predictions of how the legislation would change their drinking habits before the legislation was enacted. Study 2 assessed crime statistics and patrons' BrAC levels and drug taking reports on an equivalent night, one year apart-before (n = 497) and after (n = 406) the new legislation. Study 3 was a test of the generalisation of Study 2 with two months of survey and BrAC data collected as people entered and exited the NEDs over two consecutive years before (n = 652 and n = 155) and one year after (n = 460) the new legislation. In Study 3 we also collected crime statistics and data on people leaving the entertainment district one year before (n = 502) and one year after (n = 514) the legislative change.

FINDINGS: People predicted that the legislation would lead to them drinking more alcohol before they entered town or make little change to their drinking habits. Baseline data over the 2 years before the legislation (Study 3) demonstrated stable preloading rates and BrAC at entry to the NEDs. However, after the introduction of the legislation patrons entered the NEDs systematically later and increased their alcohol preloading. People were substantially more inebriated as they entered the NEDs after the legislative change, with approximately 50% fewer people not preloading after the new laws. Exit BrAC was less consistent but showed some evidence of an increase. Crime statistics and patrons' self-reported experiences of violence did not change.

INTERPRETATION: Legislation that does not specifically adapt to the cultural shift of preloading and take local conditions into account will be unsuccessful in reducing alcohol consumption. Such legislation is unlikely to meaningfully change assault rates in youth.

Language: en


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