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NEWS AND VIEWS
Would You Put the Alcohol Industry in Charge of the Breath Tests?
Wednesday, 3rd May, 2006
In the United States last week the Journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine published a study putting sales by the alcohol industry to under age drinkers at $US22.5 billion a year. That figure - equal to 17.5% of total American alcohol sales - led the study to conclude that " the alcohol industry is not a good candidate to regulate its own marketing and sales practices."
About the same time in Australia the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, announced a $5 million grant of taxpayers money to encourage Australians to drink responsibly. The recipient of the grant was a group called DrinkWise Australia.
And just what is DrinkWise Australia? "An independent, self-governing organisation", said Mr Pyne, "established by the alcohol beverages sector to focus on promoting responsible drinking."
The US study Estimate of the Commercial Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Abusive and Dependent Drinking to the Alcohol Industry found the combined value of illegal underage drinking and adult pathological drinking to the industry was at least $US48.3 billion.
This equalled 37.5% of consumer expenditures for alcohol, in 2001. Alternative estimates suggest that these costs may be closer to $US62.9 billion, or 48.8% of consumer expenditures for alcohol.
The authors concluded:
In his remarks Mr Pyne said the money handed over to DrinkWise Australia gives the Government an opportunity to work with the alcohol industry and the Australian community to raise awareness about the harms associated with alcohol misuse and encourage the responsible use of alcohol.
Foster's is one of three foundation sponsors of DrinkWise.
Stephen Millar, former President and CEO of Constellation Wines, the world's largest wine company, member of the Australian Wine Research Institute Board, Executive Council Member of the Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) is a Director.
Information about DrinkWise is scanty but Dr Peter McCarthy, described as the organisation's chief policy officer, used the following slides at a conference in Canberra last year to illustrate the "facts" about under age drinking:
And you were stupid enough to think that under age drinking was a problem!
With at least 37.5% of sales linked to underage drinking and adult abusive and dependent drinking, the alcohol industry has a compelling financial motive to attempt to maintain or increase rates of underage drinking.
Alcohol advertisements in magazines, for example, expose youth aged 12 to 20 years to 45% more beer advertisements and 27% more advertisements for distilled spirits than adults of legal drinking age.
The same pattern of overexposure of children relative to adults with advertisements for beer and distilled spirits also can be seen in radio and television advertising. Furthermore, exposure of children and teens to magazine and television alcohol advertisements has increased, even more so for girls than boys, despite national reports calling for limits on advertising by the alcohol industry to children and teens younger than 21 years.
Allegations that the alcohol industry profits from unfair and deceptive marketing practices aimed at underage drinkers to assure this flow of profits is the subject of several lawsuits filed against the alcohol industry.
Extract from a paper in the current issue