Corporate Ventriloquism Undermines Action on Alcohol Harms
Alcohol remains a serious global health concern, with a pressing need to reduce consumption among specific population segments, particularly youth, people who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, and those drinking heavily. These considerations are reflected in the World Health Organization’s draft 2022-2030 global alcohol strategy, which is intended to facilitate consultations with member states, civil society, economic operators, and individuals.
The draft attracted criticism for one sentence in the areas for action, which included the statement that “appropriate attention” should be given to “prevention of drinking [alcohol use] among pregnant women and women of childbearing age,” as well as alcohol use among young people and protecting people from pressures to use alcohol.
The Portman Group—the UK alcohol industry’s “social responsibility body”—responded with a press release describing this passage as “sexist and paternalistic” and accusing WHO of overstepping its remit. This was picked up by UK newspapers and followed by a Twitter storm that provoked further media coverage focused on perceived paternalism.