The marketing of responsible drinking: Competing voices and interests

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Abstract

Introduction and Aims.

This paper contrasts health-oriented low-risk drinking guidelines (LRDGs) with social drinking marketing and popular advice on the amount of alcohol to be provided for social occasions. The questions addressed include: What is the underlying evidence base and rationale for health-oriented versus socially oriented drinking guidelines? What are the recommended amounts of alcohol per person from the LRDGs and from popular advice?

Design and Methods.

This paper draws on existing research, archival data, websites, print media and key informant interviews. The focus is on recent information on LRDGs and social drinking indicators in Canada, the USA, Australia and the UK.

Results.

There is extensive epidemiological research indicating the associations between drinking pattern and risk for chronic disease and trauma as well as certain potential health benefits from drinking small amounts regularly. This body of evidence is one resource for government or medically sanctioned LRDGs in many jurisdictions. In contrast, for those planning social events where liquor is served, information is available from the hospitality industry, retailers and liquor control boards. While some overlap exists between these two sources of information, in some contexts normative recommendations support drinking at potentially dangerous levels.

Discussion and Conclusions.

The inconsistency among the different guidelines highlights one of the challenges of conveying health information on a drug that is integrated into social life and used extensively. It also reflects a siloed approach to alcohol policy—where retailing and harm reduction practices are managed by different sectors of government that seldom reflect a coordinated response.[Wettlaufer A, Cukier S, Giesbrecht N, Greenfield TK. The marketing of responsible drinking: Competing voices and interests. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:231–239]

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