Language has the ability to change the thinking patterns of readers. Different ways of framing an issue can create either positive, negative, or neutral feelings and thoughts about that issue within the reader. This is a fact that the alcohol industry knows and uses to propagate harmful alcohol norms and myths as well as muddy science about the harms of their products and practices.
In her latest opinion article Tharaka Ranchigoda delves into why Movendi International invests in producing news stories about alcohol issues. Her piece analyzes the importance of framing when writing about alcohol issues, with examples of problematic language used by external media outlets compared with language and framing used at Movendi International when covering the same alcohol issues.
Media coverage of alcohol policy measures can influence public support for these policy measures. This is why it is important to produce news coverage on alcohol issues from a public interest perspective that is not biased by the private profit interests of the alcohol industry.
A study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs by Vallance and colleagues illustrates the need for writing and publishing public health-oriented articles on alcohol issues.
Another study published in The Milbank Quarterly by Petticrew and colleagues exposed how alcohol industry Corporate Social Responsibility bodies deploy social norming methods, such as “dark nudges” and “sludge” strategies. Using these strategies the alcohol industry promotes mixed messages which confuse people and undermine recognition of alcohol harm.
Language and framing are used by the alcohol industry in marketing to normalize alcohol use among different target groups. These norms then lead to increased alcohol use and resulting harm among these groups.
A report by the Scottish Health Action for Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) found that the harmful alcohol norms associated with masculinity are causing men to experience heightened levels of alcohol harm. This includes exacerbating mental health problems among men and lower rates of seeking help and support for these problems.
After objectifying women for years to sell alcohol to men, the alcohol industry is now trying to feminize alcohol products and align with feminist and women empowerment movements to sell to women. The result is rising alcohol use among women, for example in the United States where women’s alcohol use is almost at men’s level. This is leading to increased physical and mental health problems among women.
Language and framing can either cause harm or be a force for positive change.
The alcohol industry has been using these tools to propagate harmful norms and myths to sell more of their products for decades. This is why it is important to write and publish articles with public interest framing to counter and expose industry arguments, increase public awareness about the harms caused by the alcohol industry and its products and build support for alcohol policy solutions.