Friends or Enemies: Alcohol Industry and Public Health

Friends or Enemies: Alcohol Industry and Public Health

Ilana Pinsky, PhD, a Research Scientist at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse recently asked: "Can the alcohol industry genuinely care about the health of its customers when its primary business objective is to gain revenue from one of the most harmful substances and when most profits are made off of people with drinking problems?" 

Dr. Pinsky suggests that the alcohol industry investment in public health isn't a solid fit. While the goals of public health initiatives are to promote healthy behaviors and prevent disease in communities, the goals of the alcohol industry are to maximize its consumer base, sales, and profits by recruiting new customers and maintaining existing customers, particularly those who drink regularly and heavily-clearly not healthy behaviors. Programs that have been funded by the alcohol industry and touted as "educational" circle around campaigns promoting "safe" levels of drinking thereby promoting healthy choices and the safety of customers. However, it is suggested that the real aim of these campaigns is to bolster the industry’s public image, increase sales and reduce the liability inherent in the sale and use of its products.

There is no scientific evidence that the public health efforts are effective. An educational program called Alcohol 101 Plus has been implemented in colleges and universities across the country. Funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (the members of whom are the world's leading distillers including Bacardi, Beam Suntory and Brown Forman), this web-based program was designed to educate college students about making safe and responsible decisions about alcohol. However, independent research conducted by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) on the effectiveness of this program suggested that while knowledge of the potential risks increased, overall alcohol usage by college students did not statistically change after participating in the program. IARD recommendations included a stronger "dose" of the program would be needed to shift behavior.

To read more about Dr. Pinsky's findings, click here. Information on IARD can be found here.

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