The development of regulation

ANTA Alcohol & Other
Drugs Toolbox
The development of regulation
The first aspect of a particular drug that could be considered might be the potential threat it
poses to an individual’s health. If a substance is causing unnecessary harm to the public,
and therefore increasing the burden on the health system, a government is unlikely to
promote it within society.
But is it as simple as that? Consider the drugs that are currently legal in Australia – alcohol
and tobacco. Alcohol is highly addictive and can potentially lead to many health effects,
including heart disease, liver damage and problems within the brain and nervous tissues.
Tobacco is the greatest cause of reducible health problems and premature death in
Australia, through lung, throat and heart damage. If these legal substances are so harmful,
surely there must be other things to consider.
Many other factors are taken into account when making decisions about drug regulation. For
example, religious and cultural traditions, as we discussed earlier, can be powerfully
persuasive. It would be difficult to argue that the role alcohol plays in Christian ceremony
contributes to its legal status in Australia – in this case, it is probably more dependant on the
fact that alcohol has a cultural tradition in our society. Similarly, tobacco has been used by
our society for a very long time.
This process is obviously very involved and the decisions that must be made are quite
difficult. It is not possible for us to discuss this in great detail within this module – the
important aspect to remember is the complexity of the drug regulation issue. If you would like
to learn more, try some of the web sites below.
Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia
Australian Drug Foundation
Australian Drug Law Reform foundation
The Drug Policy Foundation
The Lindesmith Centre
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
© ANTA 2000