The alcohol industry makes claims to governments that contradict and obfuscate science in an attempt to influence marketing regulations and prevent more stringent controls on products, an Australian study has found.
An author of the paper, Prof Kypros Kypri, said the findings showed that alcohol industry lobbying of politicians and involvement in discussions about policy were the most significant obstacles to evidence-based health.
The industry used tactics similar to those used by big tobacco to oppose increased regulation, the analysis found. Like big tobacco, the alcohol industry claimed regulation would be redundant because it was selling a legal product and self-regulation was already occurring; that there was insufficient evidence to link the marketing of alcohol products to increased alcohol consumption; that regulation would have unintended negative consequences on employment and the economy; and that regulation was questionable legally.
Kypri, from the University of Newcastle’s school of medicine and public health, said there were also other tactics used by the alcohol industry, including claiming that companies were socially responsible because of their involvement in responsible drinking campaigns and making recommendations for alternative strategies that the government could use to address the section of society that drinks heavily, instead of “punishing the majority”.
“By emphasising the idea that government regulation isn’t neccesary, the alcohol industry is still fighting scientific evidence and casting doubt,” Kypri said.
“They attempt to subvert the science because the science is quite worrying for them. In the past the alcohol industry has claimed alcohol is different to tobacco because there is a safe level of consumption but even that is now up for debate.
“While the tobacco industry can’t argue against the science anymore, the alcohol industry continues to, even though people don’t die from tobacco overdose but they do from drinking and they don’t become violent when they smoke but they do when they drink.”
He said that, while the alcohol industry and its representatives should be entitled to have a say, the industry had no place around the table when it came to developing health policy.
– Melissa Davey
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