2nd of July, 2021 by Dr. Mary Madden & Jim McCambridge. From Institute of Alcohol Studies.

It can sometimes seem to public health interests that they are David, daring to hope to win against the odds, and the corporation is Goliat.

Given that the alcohol market is dominated by a small group of large producers, and the rise of social media has allowed for new opportunities to grow in a more personal way and to a wider audience, competition has been though. By growing their markets, global alcohol companies became advisors on policies and to consumers, as a way to distract the market itself from the clear evidence of alcohol harm.

From the 1st of April, new guidelines regarding the way alcohol is advertised and promoted came into effect; however, health advocates claim that the updated advice lacks ways to be disciplined and to actually be effective. Alcohol Healthwatch, Nicki Jackson, expresses her concerns, also towards minors and how they could instead gain an easier way to view alcohol ads.

The industry that produces alcohol seems invisible, and remains privileged, protected and increasingly available as a product.

Responsibility for the choice to drink rests solely with the consumer in this narrative, and very little attention gets paid to the nature of the market and the information conditions under which that choice is exercised. This includes corporate investment in shaping drinking norms and withholding key information from consumers about adverse effects.

Corporate marketing and lobbying dominate thinking about alcohol so the risks and the harms continue to be felt at individual, family, community and social levels, while corporate shareholders profit.

The David and Goliath metaphor is unhelpful if it keeps a public health David beleaguered and stuck at the start of the contest.

David did not play by Goliath’s rules. Alcohol marketing dominates people’s thinking about this drug, simply because we currently allow this to happen. We give corporations a license to operate, and we should look at the terms of the license, and revise them, to better protect public health. We could begin to develop the science of alcohol messaging, investing more substantially in assertively promoting counter-marketing ideas. This counter-marketing could raise awareness of the corporate engineering of addiction, and corporations’ disregard for other harms caused by ethanol (the drug in the drink).

Link to read the full article: https://www.ias.org.uk/2021/07/02/alcohol-marketing-versus-public-health-david-and-goliath/

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