Alcohol is one of the major health-demoting commodities. Alcohol consumption leads not only to public health problems but also causes huge societal burdens including through Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), which are the number one global killer.
Additionally, evidence points to the fact that there is a significant relationship between alcohol consumption and health inequalities. People living in poverty are more likely to be exposed to the harms caused by use of alcohol and therefore they have less capacity to cope with negative consequences compared to rich people.
Trade globalization has boosted the market expansion of alcohol across countries, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Most trade agreements regard alcohol like any other ordinary consumable product without safeguarding public health and societal development from adverse consequences of increased alcohol use.
Likewise, Thailand, as emerging market, is facing the progressive liberalisation of its market of health-demoting commodities. We are not only witnessing adverse impacts of increasing numbers of alcohol use prevalence particularly in the young and among female. We also have to witness the high social costs of alcohol consumption in Thailand, as well as the destructive influences of the global alcohol industry on our country’s alcohol policy process – ranging from eroding legal restrictions of free trade to protect health (such as Technical Barriers to Trade) as well as the aggressive lobbying of big industry.
Alcohol is just not an ordinary commodity. We should consider equally the health and well-being outcomes and economic benefits of its free flow across countries both for existing and new free trade negotiations.
For further reading:
“Global Hangover. Alcohol as obstacle to development” by Pierre Andersson
“Inequality, deprivation and alcohol use“, by Marmot M., in Addiction. 1997 Mar;92 Suppl 1:S13-20.
“Paths linking trade and chronic disease III: Alcohol“, by Labonté, R., Mohindra, K., Lencucha, R., in Trade and Chronic Diseases: An Overview.
“THIRSTING FOR THE AFRICAN MARKET“, by David H. Jernigan (Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth), Georgetown University Washington, D.C., U.S.A. and Isidore S. Obot (Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse) Jos, Nigeria, in African Journal of Drug & Alcohol Studies, 5(1), 2006 Copyright © 2006, CRISA Publications
(I wrote this piece together with Thaksaphon Thammarangsi)