Home > Editorial: Shining a light on international alcohol industry lobbying.

(2022) Editorial: Shining a light on international alcohol industry lobbying. The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 7, (4), 275. 10.1016/S2468-1253(22)00060-7.

External website: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/...

Arguing against alcohol policy is big business. In a new analysis published in The Lancet Global Health, Pepita Barlow and colleagues reveal the global scale of alcohol industry attempts to disrupt national public health policies, deploying arguments—many employing motifs used for decades to fight tobacco control—in high-level World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions. The authors found that more than half (55·2%) of the 212 WTO member statements on ten national alcohol warning label policies, proposed by countries including India, Kenya, and South Africa, used industry arguments. Most statements were made by high-income countries, led by the EU (n=37) and the USA (n=34), and only seven (3·3%) were identified as being driven by industry. Proposed public health interventions were variously described in these statements as lacking in evidence, scientifically inaccurate, restrictive, or overly broad. A tactic of proposing ineffective alternative policies is also clear. For example, when Kenya proposed in 2010 to add large warning labels to alcoholic drinks amid high alcohol-related mortality, EU representatives repeatedly expressed “concerns”, stating that, given EU experience, “education and information activities seemed to be appropriate”. WTO challenges exert significant pressure, often forcing countries to abandon domestic regulations or design them with trade rules in mind. Such intrusions in the domestic public health policy of low-income and middle-income countries are motivated by concerns for market access, not health: public awareness campaigns had been in place in Kenya for many years.

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