Alcohol industry calls for involvement in public health policy

The alcohol industry should contribute to the development of public health and Government initiatives to tackle alcohol misuse, according to two of the world’s biggest drinks producers.

Speaking at the launch of a book aimed at encouraging private and public sector cooperation, Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo and SABMiller chief Graham Mackay, claimed it is essential that drinks producers are included in the development of strategies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm.

Both said Governments cannot tackle misuse alone and cooperation is necessary between producers, retailers and public health bodies.

The book was launched by the International Center for Alcohol Policies, a policy think tank sponsored by the industry, and is timed to coincide with the soon to be unveiled World Health Organisation global strategy on tackling alcohol misuse.

The launch of the book follows calls from some public health bodies to exclude the alcohol industry from discussions about reducing misuse. In September, The British Medical Association described the idea of drinks producers advising Government on policy as “dangerous”.

Mackay questioned critics that say that such cooperation is akin to the “fox guarding the hen house”, adding that demonstrating corporate responsibility is important to ensure the health of SABMiller’s business.

“To be irresponsible is not in the interest of the business or shareholders,” he says.

The book “Working together to reduce harmful drinking”, has a chapter on marketing and claims the industry continues to advance “well-documented efforts to both market responsibly and market responsibility through branded responsibility messages and campaigns”.

In the UK, most producers carry a responsible drinking message and point consumers to the Drinkaware website, which includes information on safe consumption.

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