The third edition of Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity, written by an international team of addiction scientists and representing more than a decade of new research, explains why alcohol policy is needed, how it is made, and the impact it has on health and well-being.
The Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA), a network of non-governmental organisations and people working in public health to reduce alcohol-related harm worldwide, welcomes the update on the evidence.
“GAPA’s goal is to promote science-based policies independent of commercial interests, and the strong evidence base is the foundation for all our work. Having the world’s most prominent alcohol researchers thoroughly evaluating and updating the evidence is extremely valuable to ensure we always advocate for the best policy measures,” says GAPA Secretary, Øystein Bakke.
According to the consensus ratings of the authors, the best practices for reducing harms at the population level include:
- taxation and pricing policies that decrease alcohol affordability
- restrictions on the physical availability of alcohol
- marketing bans
- drink-driving deterrence measures
“The update of the evidence reaffirms what has been termed “best buys” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and which are included in the WHO SAFER Alcohol Policy initiative to which GAPA is a Civil Society Partner,” says Mr Bakke. “We see that these policy measures are severely under-utilized in many parts of the world. Lack of awareness of the level of harm and effective interventions, lack of resources and opposition from strong vested interests are among the explanations.”
The book includes a critical review of the cumulative scientific evidence in seven general areas of alcohol policy: pricing and taxation, regulating the physical availability of alcohol, marketing restrictions, education and other methods of persuasion, drink-driving countermeasures, modifying the environment in which drinking occurs, and treatment and early intervention services.
The book also discusses the current state of alcohol policy in different parts of the world, the detrimental role of the alcohol industry in policymaking and the need for both national and global alcohol policies that are evidence-based, effective, and coordinated.
Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity focuses two chapters on the growing body of research on alcohol policymaking and the parties involved in it, including the influence of the alcohol industry in setting alcohol policy. Marketing is an essential part of the alcohol industry’s activities, which seek to attract people to drink, build brand loyalty, normalise the use of alcohol products, and justify the industry’s role in developing alcohol policy.
“The majority of the global alcohol industry is now concentrated in a few transnational companies that are expanding their business in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The growing influence of large alcohol producers and alcohol industry organisations has undermined the ability of public health authorities and policy makers to limit alcohol-related harm through effective alcohol policies,” says lead author Thomas Babor, Emeritus Professor of Public Health Sciences, University of Connecticut, USA. “If the influence of the alcohol industry remains unchecked, we can expect increasing alcohol problems in areas of the world that are most vulnerable to alcohol industry influence and marketing.”
Opportunities for evidence-based alcohol policies that better serve the public good are clearer than ever before, as a result of the accumulated knowledge on which strategies work best. On the basis of the evidence arrayed in this book, extraordinary opportunities exist to strengthen the policy response to alcohol-related problems.
“It is of utmost importance that more countries implement the recommended policies described in this volume. Particularly Low- and Middle-Income Countries, which are the designated ‘emerging markets’ for the global alcohol industry, need to take steps to protect public health and prevent the consequences of increasing alcohol consumption,” says Mr Bakke.
How to purchase/download:
The print version can be ordered from Oxford University Press. Go to Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity. Use the button at the top of the page to choose your country or region to order the print version of the book. Availability may vary with region.
All royalties from sales of the book go to the British Society for the Study of Addiction, a registered charity that will use the proceeds to finance translations and other dissemination activities.
Open access to the book was funded by the Norwegian Directorate of Health. The free online e-book version is available on the Oxford University Press website. Go to Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity and look for the Open Access symbol. The book is available as a downloadable PDF.
The Addiction summary
An open access summary of the third edition of Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity is available from the Journal Addiction