School of Population Health

Tobacco, Alcohol & Illicit Drugs (PHCM9604)

image - Tobacco, Alcohol & Illicit Drugs


Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs is a wide ranging course that takes a public heath approach to understanding this important and complex issue. The first section of the course focusses on tobacco. The worldwide toll of death and disability related to tobacco use is enormous. We examine programs in countries that have made efforts to limit availability of tobacco and reduce its use, and the effectiveness of those efforts. Issues of tobacco control are examined: what does it involve; how best can it be achieved; and how can it be evaluated. Students will develop an understanding of the patterns of tobacco use and health effects of smoking, and nicotine dependence.

The second section of the course focusses on Alcohol and Illicit drugs and has relevance for population health related to drug use, health management of people who are drug users and abusers, drug policy, and raises important controversial issues. Use of alcohol and other drugs is a major issue in determining the health of individuals and populations in developed and developing countries. Students will explore the size of the drug problem; model of dependence; harm reduction; and relapse prevention and will gain a greater understanding of the patterns and health effects of drug use and issues of drug dependence. The range of public health approaches available to reduce use of both tobacco, and alcohol and illicit drugs, including the range of harm reduction strategies, will be examined. Students will develop skills of brief interventions to use with patients and gain an understanding of the issues associated with relapse.

This course provides students with important knowledge and skills that will enable them to plan and evaluate effective tobacco control measures and alcohol and drug services. This course is useful for doctors, nurses and other health practitioners, public health specialists, policy-makers and others in the public and private sectors of developed and developing countries.

Credit points

This course is an elective in the Master of Public Health, Master of Health Management, Master of International Public Health and Master of Infectious Diseases Intelligence comprising 6 units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study programs.

Mode of study

This course is offered fully online by External (Distance) mode.

Course aim

The aim of this course is for students to appreciate the range of public health strategies and clinical approaches to tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use, and understand the range of perspectives from the individual user, health professional, public health practitioner, government and health system.

Course Outcomes

On completion of this course, the successful student will be able to:

  • Outline the distinct types of drugs and their availability, uses, contexts of use and legality
  • Articulate a deep understanding of the influence of drugs on society
  • Discuss reasons for drug use, the social and psychological effects on the drug user and concepts of drug dependence and tolerance
  • Evaluate public health and clinical approaches to reduce drug use
  • Recognise the issues surrounding special subpopulations at risk from drug use and consider the implications for clinical and public health initiatives
  • Consider management strategies of a drug user from the clinician’s perspective
  • Explore differing perspectives on drug use and consider their implications for understanding and effectively reducing drug related harms
  • Critically appraise research studies relating to drug use
Learning and teaching rationale

In this course there is a focus on:

  • opportunities for you to pursue your own individual interests related to the tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug field
  • opportunities to work on projects related to your own workplace
  • opportunities to work on social action projects e.g.; the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control
  • a critical approach to social institutions which encourages you to critique and challenge the status quo
  • development of cognitive abilities such as critical thinking or reflection, and
  • opportunities to pursue academic interests and perhaps undertake an original research project.
Teaching strategies

Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs is a course with a variety of teaching strategies which I hope you will find interesting and relevant. There are lectures and seminars with invited experts, readings and film clips on various topics.


Assessment Task 1 - Quiz
Weighting: Formative Assessment Task
Length: 30 minutes

Assessment Task 2 - Three Learning Activities
Weighting: 50%
Length: 1000 words each

Assessment Task 3 - Assignment
Weighting: 50%
Length:  2000-3000 words

Readings and resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  1. Course notes and readings
  2. Lecture recordings and slides
  3. Supplementary resources such as videos and podcasts