Public health response to global alcohol producers’ attempts to implement WHO global strategy on alcohol

Global Alcohol Policy Alliance                              

An alcohol billboard for an expensive brand of champagne is a poor neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland, with an unemployment rate of 57%. Credit

 On October 8, 2012, thirteen of world’s largest alcohol producers issued a set of commitments to reduce the harmful use of alcohol worldwide, ostensibly in support of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2010 Global Strategy to Reduce the Harmful Use of Alcohol.  As an independent coalition of public health professionals, health scientists and NGO representatives, we are submitting this public Statement of Concern to the WHO Secretariat in response to the activities of the global alcohol producers.  Based on their lack of support for effective alcohol policies, misinterpretation of the Global Strategy’s provisions, and their lobbying against effective public health measures, we believe that the alcohol industry’s inappropriate commitments must be met with a united response from global health community.


Our reservations can be summarized as follows:

  1. The commitments are based on questionable assumptions, as stated in the signatories’ Preamble.
  2. The actions proposed in the five commitments are weak, rarely evidence-based and are unlikely to reduce harmful alcohol use.
  3. Prior initiatives advanced by the alcohol industry as contributions to the WHO Global Strategy have major limitations from a public health perspective.
  4. The signatories are misrepresenting their roles with respect to the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy.

This Statement calls upon WHO and its Regional Offices to: clarify the roles and responsibilities of  “economic operators” in the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy; implement stronger conflict of interest policies and continue to avoid partnerships with the commercial alcohol industry, its “social aspects” organizations and other groups funded by the commercial alcohol industry.


Member States are urged to ensure resources are available to provide evidence based input to policy development which is independent of commercial and vested interests. They are also encouraged to establish funding sources independent of commercial and other vested interests to carry out research and public health advocacy work.


In addition, we recommend that the global alcohol producers refrain from engagement in health-related prevention, treatment, research and traffic safety activities, as these tend to be ineffective, self-serving and competitive with the activities of the WHO and the public health community. The global producers are encouraged to cease their opposition to effective, evidence-based alcohol policies, and refrain from product innovations that have high abuse potential and appeal primarily to youth and other vulnerable groups.


Finally, we recommend that the public health community avoid funding from industry sources for prevention, research and information dissemination activities, refrain from any form of association with industry education programs, and insist on industry support for evidence-based policies.


It is concluded that the global producers’ activities in support of the WHO Global Strategy are compromising the work of public health experts, the WHO, its regional offices, and the NGOs working in the public health area to deal with the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol.  Unhealthy commodity industries such as the global alcohol producers should have no role in the formation of national and international public health policies.


The full statement is available here.


Drafting Committee:

Professor Thomas F. Babor, USA

Ms Katherine Brown, UK

Professor David Jernigan, USA

Dr Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye, Uganda

Professor Gerard Hastings, UK

Dr Ronaldo Laranjeira, Brazil

Professor Isidore Obot, Nigeria

Mr Sven-Olov Carlsson, Sweden

Dr Evelyn Gillan, UK

Professor Wei Hao, China

Mr Øystein Bakke, Norway

Professor Mike Daube, Australia

Ms Kate Robaina, USA

Professor Peter G. Miller,Australia

Professor Peter Anderson, UK

Dr Aurelijus Veryga, Lithuania

Professor S Casswell,New Zealand

Professor Sungsoo Chun, South Korea