Reducing risky behaviours

Risky lifestyle behaviours are a part of living for many people and often emerge in adolescence, a stage of life when people may be vulnerable to the influences of peer pressure and popular culture.

Risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and having unprotected sex contribute to chronic diseases that may reduce quality of life:

By preventing or reducing these behaviours among Canberrans, we could greatly improve the health and wellbeing of our community.


Regulating new and emerging tobacco and nicotine products is an ongoing challenge.

Tobacco smoking remains the number one preventable cause of illness and premature death in Australia. It is the leading cause of cancer and contributes to other conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. An increasing number of young people are also now using e-cigarettes which can cause lung injury and addiction.

Alcohol consumption

Evidence shows that drinking high amounts of alcohol contributes to weight gain and can cause liver disease, some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Alcohol-related harm also puts pressure on hospital emergency departments.

Safe sex

Through practicing safe sex, sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea and certain blood borne viruses like HIV can be prevented.

Needle usage

By reducing unsafe contact with contaminated blood and blood products such as through sharing syringes to inject drugs, blood borne viruses can be prevented.

What we want to achieve

  • Risky behaviours
    • fewer young people engaging in risk-taking behaviours
    • reduced ongoing harms from the consequences of risk-taking behaviours.
  • Tobacco smoking
    • fewer children and young people using smoking products, including e-cigarettes
    • lower rates of smoking among population groups at higher risk, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Risky drinking
    • a delay in the average age where young people take their first drink
    • fewer people drinking at risky levels.
  • Sexually transmissible infections and blood borne viruses
    • fewer young people engaging in unsafe sex
    • fewer people with chronic disease secondary to chronic blood-borne virus infection.

What is the ACT Government already doing in this area?

ACT Health Promotion Grants Program
In November 2021, the Minister launched the Healthy Canberra Grants: Focus on Reducing Risky Behaviours with a total of $1.4 million over 3 years. This will provide funding for programs that aim to reduce risky behaviours including use of alcohol and tobacco, with a focus on education, prevention and support for sexually transmissible infections and blood borne viruses.

Tobacco and e-cigarettes

Advancing e-cigarette policy
In 2021, the ACT Government passed a resolution to better protect and inform Canberrans about the risks of e-cigarettes, assess the effectiveness of our own smoking legislation and advocate for better protection under national legislation.

Tobacco and E-cigarette community of practice
A Tobacco & E-cigarette community of practice was formed with government and non-government partners in 2021 to find ways to prevent and delay young people’s use of smoking products and support smokers to quit.

Safer Baby Bundle
The Safer Baby Bundle initiative provides evidence-based education for health professionals who work with pregnant women. This initiative aims to reduce the risk of stillbirths through better assessment and management of risk factors during pregnancy. The program focuses on 5 areas where research shows life can be saved, one of which is supporting women to stop smoking during pregnancy.

E-cigarette harm reduction resources
The ACT Government has worked collaboratively with educators across public, independent and catholic schools to develop a teacher professional learning course, curriculum aligned classroom resources, and parent/carer resources to strengthen e‑cigarette education and prevention strategies in school communities. A comprehensive package of resources will be available in Term 2 of 2023.


Promoting safe drinking guidelines in sport
Healthier Choices Canberra collaborates with junior sports clubs to promote safe drinking guidelines and reduce unhealthy forms of sponsorship such as alcohol promotion.

Restricting alcohol marketing
The ACT Government introduced a policy restricting alcohol advertising on buses and light rail. This helps to reduce exposure to marketing of alcohol in the community.

Promoting free drinking water
Refill Canberra is working with businesses through the Healthier Choices Canberra program to promote free drinking water at on-license premises. 140 businesses were participating as of 2022.

Understanding alcohol-related harms
A research partnership between ACT Government and the Australian National University explored issues around alcohol-related harm among university students. The research will inform future policy decisions.

Reducing harm from home delivery of alcohol
To prevent unsafe episodes of alcohol withdrawal occurring in the community, alcohol retail outlets were regarded as essential suppliers while COVID-19 restrictions were in place. The ACT Government is continuing to monitor potential issues arising from internet supply and home delivery of alcohol.

Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm
The Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm is a therapeutic community-based program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make ongoing and meaningful changes in their lives. The program aims to provide a safe environment to help people work towards a healthier lifestyle and think about the impact of alcohol and/or other drugs.

Sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses (STIs and BBVs)

Commissioning services in the STIBBV subsector
Commissioning is underway in the sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses subsector. This will guide sector capacity building activities so the final procurement of services reflects the contemporary needs of the ACT community. The commissioning website was updated and re-launched in December 2022.

Directions ACT and Hepatitis ACT Needle and Syringe Programs
ACT Government invested $982,000 over 4 years in the 2021-22 Budget for ongoing expansion of the existing Needle and Syringe Program and to explore options for a medically supervised injecting/drug consumption facility. Supervised injecting facilities provide sterile injecting equipment to drug users to prevent blood borne viruses, help prevent overdoses and create opportunities for referrals.

Hepatitis C: Reach teach and treat program
The ACT Government provided grant funding to Hepatitis ACT for the Hepatitis C: Reach, Teach, Treat Program. The Program aims to help ‘hard-to-reach’ populations of people with Hepatitis C, to educate, engage and support them to get treatment.

STIBBV surveillance report
The ACT Government commissioned the Kirby Institute to develop the ACT Sexually Transmissible Infections and Blood Borne Viruses surveillance report. The report will look at progress made against the ACT Government’s goals in the STIBBV subsector.

Improved online sexual health information
The ACT Sexual Health landing page on the
ACT Health's website has been updated with information on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses, what to expect during STI checks and where to access services. The webpage was designed to be engaging and easy to navigate, with fresh information and graphics.

Viral hepatitis and HIV screening
In 2020, to ensure clients have streamlined access to new Hepatitis C treatments, the Canberra Health Services Alcohol and Drug Service introduced direct access to screening, assessment and Hepatitis C treatment within the Alcohol and Drug Service. The services provided to patients also include screening for other BBVs such as HIV and Hepatitis B.