Science, Public Policy and the Alcohol Industry

  • Norman Giesbrecht


Alcohol is associated with a wide range of problems with high social and economic costs, and drinking has a negative impact on abstainers, moderate drinkers and heavy drinkers. In light of this damage it is incumbent that the most effective prevention policies and interventions should be promoted by all private, non-governmental and governmental agencies involved in prevention. In recent years the alcohol industry—through the social aspect organizations (SAOs) that they sponsor—has taken an increasingly active role in prevention. This paper analyzes their perspectives on alcohol problems, intervention foci and prevention and policy initiatives that they support. SAOs support industry self-regulation of alcohol advertising, despite countless breaches of advertising codes, and individually oriented information or persuasion prevention campaigns found generally to be ineffective. Furthermore, the industry seeks to block other measures, such as increased taxation on alcohol, lower legal BAC levels for all drivers, and controls on outlet density, which have been shown to be effective in reducing drinking-related harm. It appears that the perspectives of the SAOs—and those of their industry sponsors—on prevention are not out-of-line with marketing and commercial agendas. It is concluded that to date these activities by the alcohol industries have not furthered effective prevention, and may have blocked progress in reducing drinking-related problems. If the alcohol industries are to have a role in prevention that is effective and evidence-based, a dramatic change in priorities is required along with clear guidelines as to their contribution.

Key words

Social Aspects Organizations alcohol industry prevention alcohol policy 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Norman Giesbrecht
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada

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