Vested Interests in Addiction Research and Policy Alcohol policies out of context: drinks industry supplanting government role in alcohol policies in sub-Saharan Africa


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Abstract

BackgroundIn this paper, we describe an analysis of alcohol policy initiatives sponsored by alcohol producer SABMiller and the International Center on Alcohol Policies, an alcohol industry-funded organization. In a number of sub-Saharan countries these bodies have promoted a ‘partnership’ role with governments to design national alcohol policies.MethodologyA comparison was conducted of four draft National Alcohol Policy documents from Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda and Botswana using case study methods.FindingsThe comparison indicated that the four drafts are almost identical in wording and structure and that they are likely to originate from the same source.ConclusionsThe processes and the draft policy documents reviewed provide insights into the methods, as well as the strategic and political objectives of the multi-national drinks industry. This initiative reflects the industry's preferred version of a national alcohol policy. The industry policy vision ignores, or chooses selectively from, the international evidence base on alcohol prevention developed by independent alcohol researchers and disregards or minimizes a public health approach to alcohol problems. The policies reviewed maintain a narrow focus on the economic benefits from the trade in alcohol. In terms of alcohol problems (and their remediation) the documents focus upon individual drinkers, ignoring effective environmental interventions. The proposed policies serve the industry's interests at the expense of public health by attempting to enshrine ‘active participation of all levels of the beverage alcohol industry as a key partner in the policy formulation and implementation process’.

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