People in Finland are well aware of the strong influence the trade sector in general and the alcohol industry in particular are exerting over alcohol policy decisions in the country. The issue of people’s perception of and reaction to the alcohol lobby’s interference on alcohol policy development was investigated by a Kantar Public survey. The survey was commissioned by EHYT ry. EHYT is the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention. EHYT works throughout Finland to promote healthy ways of life.
Is alcohol policy making guided by the people’s interest or by the interest of alcohol companies?
The survey investigated peoples’ perceptions of alcohol policy.
In the survey, people rank the interests of the restaurant and retail industry as the biggest influencers of alcohol policy decisions:
- 60% of respondents feel that the restaurant and retail industry interferes in alcohol policy at the moment.
In contrast, many fewer people, only half of respondents say that science-based information and expert input shapes alcohol policy decision-making.
When asked which considerations and input should shape alcohol policy decisions more than is currently the case, people rank science-based information and experts as the most important (69%).
Another high priority is to address alcohol policy from the perspective of public health. 68% of respondents want that “taking care of people’s health” is the most important factor in alcohol policy making.
Based on the survey, people are quite well informed about the factors behind decision-making. The big challenge of drug policy is whose interests it promotes,” says Marja Pakarinen, executive director of EHYT ry.
Internationally, the participation of the alcohol industry in decision-making has been opposed and limited. Among other things, the World Health Organization has stated that the alcohol industry should not play any role in formulating alcohol policy decisions. According to the WHO, alcohol policy must be protected from the influence of commercial interests. The citizens are absolutely right to demand researched information and people’s health as the starting point for alcohol policy.”Marja Pakarinen, executive director, EHYT ry
Alcohol lobbyists downplay the harm caused by the products and practices of the industry
Numerous studies have found that the same arguments and strategies are repeated in the communication of the alcohol and tobacco industry. Movendi International is curating a resource database – with currently more than 60 case studies and articles – revealing the lobby tactics of the alcohol industry.
Alcohol lobbyists make claims, for example, about the responsibility of alcohol companies and criticize regulation and restrictions for inefficiency. They also shift the blame for alcohol problems to people, not their own products and practices. But they keep people and policy makers in the dark about two facts:
- already low-dose alcohol use causes serious, and
- substantial harm and most of the profits of alcohol industry comes from heavy alcohol use.
EHYT says, the more alcohol there is in everyday environments, the more difficult the situation becomes in terms of prevention. People, especially vulnerable communities, have a right to be protected from alcohol but the alcohol industry works to make their products more widely available, affordable, and marketed.
The sale of alcohol is a significant business, with substantial private profits. In Finland, alcohol is sold for around five billion Euros annually,” explains Ms. Pakarinen.
The billions of euros in costs due to alcohol harm, on the other hand, fall to be paid by the public sector through, for example, the burden on healthcare or the police, to employers through incapacity and absenteeism, not to mention the human suffering and harm to the vast majority of us Finns.
Therefore, it is fully justified that the alcohol policy that prevents harm is implemented and regulated by the state and on the basis of public health.”Marja Pakarinen, executive director, EHYT ry