Alcohol Use Disorders (82) The role of the alcohol industry (12) Impact of alcohol industry on policy

23 February, 2024

Alcohol industry attempts to influence alcohol policies, evidence from research and Zimbabwean experience.

There is some evidence of the pervasive influence of the alcohol industry on regulatory decisions. Even in Africa, concerns are mounting about the undue sway that alcohol corporations wield in shaping public health policies. The alcohol industry has vast resources and powerful lobbying machinery which they use to influence policymakers (Governments) to enact regulations that align with their business interests. The alcohol industry lobbying includes advocating for lenient advertising restrictions, resisting measures aimed at curbing alcohol consumption and influencing policy discussions agenda. The industry enters strategic alliances, make financial contributions, use of celebrities to promote alcohol, sponsorship deals with sports, and use sophisticated marketing campaigns to shape the narrative around alcohol use and minimize the implementation of stringent regulations like WHO Best buys. The industry leverage on their economic clout and political connections to sway policymakers in their favor.

Evidence from selected publications highlighting the attempts by the alcohol industry to influence alcohol policies in different settings including the UK.

McCambridge, J., Mialon, M., and Hawkins, B. (2018) Alcohol industry involvement in policymaking: a systematic review. Addiction, 113: 1571–1584

Ferreira-Borges C, Esser MB, Dias S, Babor T, Parry CD. Alcohol Control Policies in 46 African Countries: Opportunities for Improvement. Alcohol Alcohol. 2015 Jul;50(4):470-6.

Sama TB, Hiilamo H. Alcohol industry strategies to influence the reform of the Finnish Alcohol Law. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2019;36(6):556-568.

Barlow P, Gleeson D, O'Brien P, Labonte R. Industry influence over global alcohol policies via the World Trade Organization: a qualitative analysis of discussions on alcohol health warning labelling, 2010-19. Lancet Glob Health. 2022 Mar;10(3):e429-e437.

The Zimbabwean picture

A study done by the author as part of MSc Public health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical (2019) showed that there is no legally binding National Alcohol Policy, and the industry is regulated by various legal instruments under different organisations. The Zimbabwe national alcohol policy making process started in 2008, first draft was completed in 2009 and final draft completed in 2010 (WHO, 2010). The draft policy is not legally binding. The policy making process was dominated by alcohol industry players with 19 out of 45 (42%) stakeholders involved (actors) in the Zimbabwe National Alcohol policy making being linked to the Alcohol industry (Zimbabwe National Alcohol Policy, 2010).

It is imperative for policymakers, public health advocates, and concerned citizens to remain vigilant against the undue influence of the alcohol industry. By advocating for evidence-based policies, promoting transparency in decision-making processes, and raising awareness about the tactics employed by the industry, we can safeguard public health interests.

Stay informed, stay engaged, and join the conversation on alcohol use disorders!

Enock Musungwini, Zimbabwe

HIFA profile: Enock Musungwini is a distinguished public health professional, health management consultant, and development practitioner currently serving as a Programme Manager (Consultant) for an NGO called Pangaea Zimbabwe under the Wild4Life Health program responsible for program management, oversight, supervision, coordination, and leadership. He holds an MSc in Public Health with a Research award from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), achieved under the prestigious British Chevening scholarship (2018-19 cohort). His educational background also includes a Master’s in Business Administration, BSc Hons in Psychology, Diploma in Nursing Science, Diploma in Public Relations and Communication, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Management and Leadership. Enock actively serve as a Reference Group Committee member for the Africa Evidence Network, Steering Committee member for the International Network for Government Science Advice Africa Chapter, member of the Consortium for Universities of Global Health and Country Representative for Healthcare Information for All (HIFA).

Enock has received numerous accolades including being appointed Brand Ambassador and receiving the Growth and Innovation award for Pangaea Zimbabwe (June 2023), Country Representative of the Year by HIFA (April 2023), Chevening Volunteers Gold Award by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (June 2019), and the Zimbabwe Achievers Chairman’s Award (Nov 2019). His academic excellence is reflected in awards such as the Amanda Jacklyn Berger Prize for his MSc Research project by LSHTM (Feb 2020) and the Marie Stopes Clinics Champion Award (Jan 2017). Enock's dedication to personal development led to his nomination for Ten Outstanding Young Persons in Zimbabwe under the Personal Improvement Category by Junior Chamber International (Oct 2019). Enock Musungwini has made presentations at national, regional, and international conferences and contributed significantly to public health discourse through his blogs and opinion pieces on various topics.