Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Alcohol is new tobacco for the WHO

It is now seventeen years since the World Health Organisation adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control dedicating to denormalising and ultimately eradicating tobacco use around the world. It was the WHO's first treaty and, despite the earnest claims of those who insisted that there was no slippery slope, it was never going to be the last.

The WHO is currently sharpening its knives for a global war on alcohol, as this recent document makes clear...

Alcohol remains the only psychoactive and dependence-producing substance with a significant impact on global population health that is not controlled at the international level by legally-binding regulatory instruments.

The others are covered by the tremendously successful policy of prohibition or, in the case of tobacco, neo-prohibition. Both make pariahs of consumers while fuelling organised crime. 

This absence limits the ability of national and subnational governments to regulate the distribution, sales and marketing of alcohol within the context of international, regional and bilateral trade negotiations, as well as to protect the development of alcohol policies from interference by commercial interests. 

It really doesn't do any of these things. As the WHO notes elsewhere, eleven countries have banned the sale and production of alcohol completely. A few others have banned alcohol advertising completely. Trade deals have got nothing to do with it.

But you can probably tell where this is heading...

That state of affairs prompts calls for a global normative law on alcohol at the intergovernmental level, modelled on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and discussions about the feasibility and necessity of such a legally binding international instrument.

Expect to hear much more of this as the decade wears on. The anonymous liars of the WHO will not waste this opportunity to grab more power. Drinkers be warned: it's your turn to be denormalised.

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