Media Release: Alcohol industry submissions distort scientific evidence - new study
Almost all alcohol industry submissions to policy consultations in Australia over a five year period presented a distorted view of the scientific evidence, according to a new study published today in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The study analysed how alcohol industry and associated actors used scientific evidence in 214 submissions to national or state/territory government alcohol policy consultations between 2013 and 2017. Industry actors included alcohol producers and retailers, trade associations, licensed businesses and associated entities who derive commercial benefit from alcohol.
It found widespread misuse of evidence and denial of the effectiveness of strategies supported by evidence:
- 94 per cent (201) of submissions included at least one instance of misusing or denying evidence. These practices were consistently high in submissions by trade associations, major producers and retailers but were also used by associated industry actors, including advertising, music, security, and food service businesses.
- 91 per cent of submissions denied the effectiveness of evidence-based strategies, most commonly making unsubstantiated claims about adverse effects of policies and promoting alternatives without evidence.
- Misuse of scientific evidence was apparent in 66 per cent of submissions.
The lead researchers from Curtin University and The George Institute for Global Health concluded that the Australian alcohol industry and those from associated industries used the same techniques to undermine the evidence base for alcohol policy as alcohol and tobacco industries have been found to use elsewhere. The success of industry actors in influencing the outcomes of consultations was not assessed.
Quotes attributable to Lead Author Julia Stafford, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
“We saw stark contradictions in how industry submissions represented evidence. For example, industry submissions frequently expressed support for evidence-based policy making but then ignored or rejected large bodies of evidence that underpin controls on alcohol marketing, availability and price.
“The alcohol industry and its allies appear to be borrowing from the Big Tobacco playbook by making unsupported, alarmist claims about the potential impacts of health policies and denying their likely health benefits. As more evidence comes to light of similar strategies being used by the alcohol and tobacco industries to pursue favourable policy outcomes, it will be increasingly difficult for governments to justify the absence of parallel protections against alcohol industry interference in policy making.”
Quote attributable to co-author Professor Simone Pettigrew, The George Institute for Global Health
“Governments seeking to develop alcohol policy that optimises health outcomes for the community may be wise to treat alcohol industry representations of evidence with extreme caution and consider limiting the role of industry in alcohol policy development processes.”
Julia Stafford, PhD Candidate, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth
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Professor Simone Pettigrew, The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney
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Professor Tanya Chikritzhs, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth
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Vic Rechichi, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth
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Posted on: 17 Dec 2020