Aims: To evaluate the effects of the Living With Alcohol (LWA) program and the LWA Alcoholic Beverage Levy on alcohol-attributable deaths in the Northern Territory (NT) controlling for simultaneous trends in death rates from a control region and non-alcohol related death trends in the NT, between 1985 and 2002.
Design: The LWA program was introduced in 1992 with funding from a special NT tax (Levy) on beverages with greater than 3% alcohol content by volume. The Levy was removed in 1997 but the LWA program continued to be funded by the federal government until 2002. Trends in age standardised rates of acute and chronic alcohol-attributable deaths in the NT were examined before, during and after the combined implementation of the LWA program and Levy and before and during the full length of the LWA program. Auto-regressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) time series analyses included internal and external control series and adjustments for possible confounders. Separate estimates were made for Indigenous and non-Indigenous NT residents.
Findings: When combined, the Levy and the LWA program were associated with significant declines in acute alcohol-attributable deaths in the NT as well as Indigenous deaths between 1992 and 1997. A significant but delayed decline in chronic deaths was evident towards the end of the study period between 1998 and 2002.
Conclusions: The combined impact of the LWA program Levy and the programs and services funded by the Levy reduced the burden of alcohol-attributable injury to the NT in the short term and may have contributed to a reduction in chronic illness in the longer term. The results of this study present a strong argument for the effectiveness of combining alcohol taxes with comprehensive programs and services designed to reduce the harm from alcohol, and underline the need to distinguish between the acute and chronic effects of alcohol in population level studies.