Industry Front Groups Unite to Own Public Discourse About Alcohol-Related Harm

October 28, 2014

Two Big Alcohol trade groups, the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) and the Global Alcohol Producers Group (GAPG), recently announced their merger and appointment of a new CEO.  ICAP, a decades-old industry front group, and GAPG, a newer iteration of mostly the same alcohol producers, merged earlier this year in a move to strengthen industry efforts to influence alcohol policy decisions worldwide.

The name of the new industry group is the International Alliance of Responsible Drinking (IARD). Sound familiar? It's remarkably close to the newly-renamed, U.S.-based Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), which is funded by spirits producers/importers through DISCUS and was previously called the Century Council. The alcohol producers who make up IARD, all prior members of ICAP and/or GAPG, include: Anadolu EFES, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Asahi Breweries, Bacardi, Beam Suntory, Brewers Association of Japan, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Constellation, Diageo, Heineken, Japan Spirits & Liquor Makers Association, Kirin, Moët Hennessy, Molson Coors, Pernod Ricard, and SABMiller.

IARD will continue efforts to stifle the World Health Organization's (WHO) policy recommendations regarding alcohol-related harm, despite the clearly stated WHO position that alcohol industry should not be involved in public health policy decision-making. Both ICAP and GAPG seek to block WHO's recommended evidence-based policies to reduce excessive consumption and alcohol related harm: restriction on access and availability; restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion; and increasing the price of alcohol though policies such as taxes and minimum pricing.

Industry alliances such as IARD, ICAP, and GAPG work to control the public discourse surrounding alcohol-related harm, focusing the public far from alcohol products as the cause of harm and providing positive PR for alcohol producers. They fund academic researchers to discredit the evidence of alcohol-related harm from their products and marketing tactics, and promote spurious research to support the industry/producer agenda. They use "Drink Responsibly" as a marketing tactic to build loyalty and promote alcohol while blaming youth, parents, schools, police, and anyone else but the product and corporate practices for alcohol-related harm. The press release about the merger refers to this piece of the industry agenda as "promoting understanding of responsible drinking."

According to the 2014 WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, alcohol causes 5.9% of deaths worldwide, and 5.1% of the global burden of disease. One wonders if the GAPG tag line will have any role in new IARD promotional materials. Or perhaps Big Alcohol achieved its goal of "GIVING GLOBAL ALCOHOL PRODUCERS A VOICE" and will continue its agenda hiding behind the IARD "responsible drinking" facade.