The alcohol industry, including the major supermarkets ignored, misrepresented and undermined international evidence on effective alcohol control policies in an attempt to influence public health policy in Scotland to its advantage, according to UK experts writing in this week’s PLOS Medicine.
The experts, led by Jim McCambridge from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, analysed the alcohol industry’s input into the Scottish Government’s 2008 Consultation on “Changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol” policy proposals which included measures to introduce minimum unit pricing and ban promotions.
They found that industry submissions advocated for policies in line with their commercial interests and consistently opposed evidence-based approaches. Industry actors also made unsubstantiated claims about the adverse effects of policy proposals they didn’t like and advocated for policies with weak evidence to support effectiveness.
The authors say: “Commercial conflicts of interest should be made explicit and policy makers should treat industry actors’ interpretation of research evidence with extreme caution.” They continue: “It is for public debate whether and to what extent the health of the population may be compromised by the commercial interests of industry, and whether the apparent economic contributions of the alcohol industry fully take into account the health and other social costs their activities incur.”
They conclude: “For policy makers, key questions concern how the pursuit of commercial interests may conflict with broader public interests and lead to the marginalisation of scientific evidence in decision-making.”
“Industry Use of Evidence to Influence Alcohol Policy: A Case Study of Submissions to the 2008 Scottish Government Consultation”,
McCambridge J, Hawkins B, Holden C (2013)
PLoS Med 10(4): e1001431. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001431
Funding: This study was funded by Alcohol Research UK. JM is supported by a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development award in Basic Biomedical Science (WT086516MA). No funding bodies had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.