Alcohol Issues Newsletter March 01 – 06, 2023
Alcohol Issues Top Stories
- French Public Still Underestimates Link Between Alcohol and Cancer.
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- Exposed: Amazon’s Secret Lobby Campaign to Sabotage the U.S. Alcohol Policy System and Open the Alcohol Market.
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- US Alcohol Deaths Continued To Rise in 2021.
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Alcohol Issues Special Feature – No. 09
Potential Public Health Effects of Lowering Alcohol Strength – and Why It Does Not Work
A new modelling study examined the effects of lowering the alcohol strength in beer, wine and spirits in six European countries and what the effects would be on the goal to reduce alcohol consumption.
Results illustrate the potential public health benefits of removing alcohol units from the market through reducing the strength of alcohol products: thousands of deaths could be averted.
But the researchers emphasize that the alcohol industry has shown no inclination toward reducing the alcoholic strength of their products.
To illustrate the public health potential of lowering the strength of alcohol products, the researchers modelled a scenario that assumed that the alcoholic strength of all beverages in six large Western and Central European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK) were reduced by 10%.
Results of the modelling show that a 10% reduction in alcoholic strength for all alcohol beverages would lead to a reduction of alcohol-attributable deaths by between 5% and 10.25%.
In absolute numbers, this means that more than 4,500 deaths would have been adverted in Germany alone.
For all the six countries included in the study the number of averted deaths for one year would have been over 14,000.
Not the alcohol industry, but alcohol taxation is the way to remove alcohol units from the market
The authors of the paper make the important point about that the methods to actually achieve a reduction in alcohol strength are unclear:
… the alcohol industry has shown no inclination toward reductions in the alcoholic strength of beer, wine, or spirits via a reformulation on a large scale.
The increase of excise taxation to achieve the public health gains of such a reduction would result in markedly increasing prices – a situation unlikely to be implemented in Europe.”Rehm J, Rovira P, Manthey J, Anderson P. Reduction of Alcoholic Strength: Does It Matter for Public Health? Nutrients. 2023 Feb 11;15(4):910. doi: 10.3390/nu15040910. PMID: 36839266; PMCID: PMC9959344.
One possible solution could be to use different taxation strategies. For example, a fixed duty per gram of alcohol, which would be multiplied by the alcoholic strength, but be steeper at lower strengths to incentivize low-strength products has been suggested.
The researchers also emphasize that the alcohol industry has not stepped up concerning the reduction of alcohol strength in their beer, wine, and liquor products.
The UK Responsibility Deal is a clear example of the alcohol industry failing to deliver on their own commitment to remove alcohol units from the market.
34 alcohol industry actors pledged to:
We will remove 1bn units of alcohol sold annually from the market by December 2015 principally through improving consumer choice of lower alcohol products”UK Responsibility Deal, Alcohol industry pledge A8(a)
Analysis showed that this was a complete failure.
A 2022 study found that in general, lower strength alcohol products have not contributed to British households buying fewer grams of alcohol over the 5-year follow-up period during 2015–2019.
This finding has implications for alcohol policy: the promotion of alcohol-free and low-alcohol products has no role in reducing population-level alcohol use. To the contrary, it might be harmful, as a 2022 report found: Big Alcohol markets NoLo products in unethical ways. This includes addition marketing and stealth marketing – to promote consumption of their alcohol products.
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