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Survey: business interests have too much influence on alcohol policy


Marja Pakarinen, EHYT

23.11.2022 - Citizens seem to be well aware of the strong influence of the trade and alcohol industry in alcohol policy decisions. People feel that researched information, consultation with experts and concern for people's health should be the most important factors guiding alcohol policy decisions. This was the subject of a Kantar Public survey* of 1 138 respondents between August and September. The survey was commissioned by the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT).


Whose interest is reflected in alcohol policy decision-making?

The survey investigated citizens' perceptions of alcohol policy. Citizens name the interests of the restaurant and retail industry as the biggest influencers on alcohol policy decisions: 60% of respondents feel that they influence them at the moment. On the other hand, only half of the respondents feel that researched information and consulting experts influence decisions.


When asked what should influence decisions more than currently, citizens rank researched information and consulting experts as the most important (69%). Taking care of people's health is considered the next most important (68%).


"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. Internationally, the participation of the alcohol industry in decision-making has been opposed and limited. Among other things, the World Health Organization WHO 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," states EHYT ry.´s executive director Marja Pakarinen.


The harms of alcohol are underestimated

Numerous studies have found that the same arguments and strategies are repeated in communications from the alcohol and tobacco industries. For example, they emphasise the industry's responsibility and criticise regulation and restrictions for being ineffective. A small minority is blamed for substance abuse problems, even though a very significant proportion of problems are caused by non-problematic users.


The more alcohol is present in everyday environments, the more challenging the situation becomes in terms of prevention. The industry often downplays the harms of alcohol and instead emphasises the freedom, responsibility and rights of the individual.


"The sale of alcohol is a significant business, and the profits from it are readily collected in the pockets of private operators. In Finland, alcohol is sold for around €5 billion a year. The billions of euros in harmful costs of alcohol fall on the public sector, for example through the burden on the health service or the police, on employers through incapacity and absenteeism, not to mention the human suffering and harm to the vast majority of us Finns. It is therefore fully justified that harm prevention alcohol policies are implemented and regulated by the state and on public health grounds," Pakarinen concludes.


* The survey was carried out by Kantar Public on behalf of EHYT ry.The target group of the survey consisted of people aged 18 and over in Finland (excluding those living in the province of Åland). The survey was completed by 1 138 people between 26 August and 6 September 2022. The responses were collected via Gallup Forum, an online respondent panel used by Kantar Public. The statistical margin of error of the results is approximately +/- 3.0 percentage points.


Source: EHYT ry


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