Wednesday, 23 February 2022

The temperance mask slips

From an anonymous editorial in Lancet Global Health...

For an addictive substance with profound public health consequences, alcohol also remains stubbornly engrained in much of the world's social and cultural structures, openly indulged in and endorsed by people of all rank and profession.
Cry more.

As long as the status of alcohol consumption as an enjoyable and even beneficial recreation remains, not least via the multitude of advertising outlets globally, the alcohol industry will be free to exert its nefarious influence while policymakers turn a blind eye.

Was this written by Carrie Nation?

The editorial is about the WHO's Global Alcohol Strategy. This is the most revealing bit...

The draft Action Plan approved at the 150th WHO Executive Board session in January was drawn up in light of the limited policy traction seen, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries, since the Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol was endorsed in 2010. One of the key barriers, according to the Action Plan preamble, is industry interference in alcohol policy development and implementation and governments’ reluctance to resist it, whether from weak leadership or competing interests.
Ironically, the Action Plan itself seems to have been subject to such interference, according to a report from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. The report's authors examined submissions to WHO's online consultation on the draft Action Plan in 2020, finding that 60 (24%) of 251 submissions were from alcohol industry actors. The thrust of many of these submissions centred on countering the Action Plan's proposals to limit industry involvement in policy making and the Plan's focus on reducing overall consumption rather than minimising harms. More worryingly, these tactics appear to have worked. An analysis of before-and-after versions of the draft Action Plan by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education showed that one of the global targets had been changed from a reduction in per capita alcohol consumption to a reduction in the “harmful use of alcohol”, and that reference to “self-regulation” by industry had been inserted.
Why would anyone in public health be bothered by the WHO targeting the harmful use of alcohol rather than alcohol consumption per se? Surely they should support this change. They're meant to be all about health, right? It's not some moral crusade, is it? 

Or is it?

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