The alcohol industry as a whole, from small scale to large, is resisting changes by the Scottish government aimed at minimizing alcohol related health issues. In an attempt to bring down the figures of alcohol related illnesses and deaths, and thus reduce the financial burden related to such care, Scotland’s government is attempting to change current policy.
It is unsurprising that the alcohol industry is fighting this change; any industry will naturally do its best to ensure that profits are maximized and steady. While some might argue that in the case of alcohol the industry has a moral obligation to its customers, it is not surprising that the companies responsible for our favourite drinks are not entirely happy with changes that reduce profits.
Dr Jim McCambridge of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is at the forefront of this issue, having discovered that the alcohol industry is being far from open and fair in regards to research. “The public interest is not served by the alcohol industry’s misinterpretation of research evidence and we must consider to what extent we should allow the health of the population to be compromised by these commercial interests.”
In a recent study, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine researchers analysed 27 different submissions made by the alcohol industry to the Scottish cunsulation board. It was found that major companies were dismissing research and evidence that would negatively impact their profitability, while placing emphasis on positive findings.
While certainly controversial and hard to sell to the populace, it has long been the strong opinion of scientists and researchers that, to quote Dr McCambridge ““There is a broad consensus internationally among researchers that the most effective measures to control problems caused by alcohol are to raise the price, control availability and restrict marketing activities.”
The ongoing struggle against commercial interests and honest and effective policy in regards to alcohol is one of major consequence. This is due to the scale at which alcohol is consumed on a countrywide level; even seemingly small alterations to price or marketing requirements and restrictions can save or negatively impact thousands of lives. While lawmakers try to find a reasonable balance between profits and public health, scientists and the alcohol industry will undoubtedly continue to trade blows.