In the Netherlands alcohol industry lobbyists have a seat at the alcohol policy table. As a consequence of this institutionalized conflict of interest and systematic Big Alcohol interference, the best alcohol policy solutions to tackle the country’s alcohol burden remain unused.
The National Prevention Agreement signed in 2018 does not even include a single alcohol policy best buy solution.
And now, to make matters worse, the new coalition government is set to increase alcohol availability even more, benefiting Big Alcohol but putting people and communities at even greater risk of alcohol harm.
Host Maik Dünnbier talks with Wim van Dalen of STAP. This conversation is a real time case study of how the alcohol industry hijacks and derails alcohol prevention efforts.

The Alcohol Issues Podcast – Season 2 Episode 06

This episode is a brand new and real time case study of how the alcohol industry hijacks and derails alcohol prevention efforts.

People and communities in the Netherlands are burdened by heavy alcohol harm. And in 2018 the government made a commitment to better prevent and reduce that harm.

Unfortunately, though, this is all unravelling now.

The Pitfalls of Big Alcohol Being at the Policy Table

To understand the alcohol policy debate in the Netherlands, host Maik Dünnbier talks with Wim van Dalen of STAP. Wim tells the story of an alcohol prevention effort that got totally hijacked and derailed by the alcohol industry.

It started with ambitious targets to better protect people from alcohol harm but now the country faces the real possibility that alcohol will become even more easily and widely available.

The conversation between Maik and Wim is very timely because there are important alcohol policy development processes going on at national, European, and global levels where the alcohol industry is also interfering and trying to get a seat at the table.

But the case of the alcohol roundtables in the Netherlands illustrates clearly what the pitfalls are.

The guest

Wim van Dalen is a sociologist. He graduated the University of Wageningen in 1976. He is one of the first university-trained health educators in the Netherlands. Wim worked for 4 years as a national policy officer at the former Federation of Alcohol en Drugs Institutions and then worked for more than 15 years as a project developer and later as manager in a regional addiction institution.

From 1986 he was a member of the advisory committee of the national alcohol campaign ‘Drink destroys more than you would like’ of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. From 1996 to 2002 he led this campaign as an employee of the Netherlands Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

In 2002 he became director of STAP. He is also chairman of EUCAM, a European network of organizations that focus on monitoring alcohol marketing.

S2 E6 Topic

Wim van Dalen is one of the most renowned and accomplished public health alcohol policy champions in the Netherlands and Europe. In the conversation he will touch upon some of the policy improvements he was part of bringing about in the Netherlands over the years. 

And in this capacity, Wim is at the center of the current alcohol policy debate. Through talking with him, we get a seat in the front row to better see and understand the alcohol harm and policy solutions needed in the Netherlands and how the alcohol industry lobbies to derail and obstruct efforts to develop evidence-based public health action on alcohol harm.

Resources for the episode 

In recent years, some alcohol policy improvements have been decided in the Netherlands, while more ambitious action is lacking.

Research shows that the Dutch consider health the most important thing for a good life. The Dutch are on average relatively healthy and have a higher life expectancy than most Europeans. But from  an international perspective, expenditure on healthcare is above average and cost control of the collectively insured care requires permanent attention. Spending on long-term care and support is very high in the Netherlands, according to the report.

Healthcare expenditure is expected to continue to grow strongly in the Netherlands. It is expected to amount to 16.4% of GDP by 2040. If policy remains unchanged, health care expenditure will rise faster than economic growth in the coming years, displacing other government expenditure.

In this context, the costs of alcohol harm in the Netherlands and the potential impact of alcohol policy best buys solutions matter a great deal.

According to a news report from the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) in 2019,  total costs of alcohol amounted to €6.1 billion, in 2013. Much of this alcohol harm and related costs could be prevented. The social costs of alcohol harm alone amount to about €4.2 billion. Social costs are for instance the costs of reduced labor productivity and the costs of police, judiciary and traffic accidents.

Already in a 2019 report, the benefits of the alcohol policy best buys for government revenue and healthcare savings were illustrated:

  1. In the long run, over a period of 50 years, an increase in excise taxes of 50% would result in societal benefits of €4.5 to €10.7 billion,
  2. The societal benefits of reducing alcohol sales venues by 10% are estimated at €1.8 to €4.3 billion over 50 years.
  3. The societal benefits of a alcohol advertising ban would amount to €3.5 to €7.8 billion over 50 years, but this estimate comes with some uncertainty.

The alcohol prevention measures listed in the table above are measures that, according to the National Institute for Health and Environmental Hygiene, are proven cost-saving or cost-effective, with a limit of € 20,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained. A negative amount in the table indicates savings; a positive amount costs.

Movendi International has also reported on the harms caused by the products and practices of the alcohol industry, such as alcohol industry practices to incentivize heavy alcohol use by students, fueling misconceptions about alcohol, and driving acute alcohol intoxication among Dutch youth.


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Listen to the episode

Listen to season 2, episode 06 of the Alcohol Issues Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

About The Alcohol Issues Podcast

The Alcohol Issues Podcast is an original production by Movendi International. It’s a show about current alcohol issues of global importance. Through in-depth conversations with policy makers, community leaders and scientists, we explore alcohol policy issues, discuss landmark scientific studies, and expose the alcohol industry.

Source Website: Keep Updated with Movendi International