The alcohol we see marketed on billboards, social media and television pushes the narrative that drinking is fun, glamorous and celebratory. Yet the truth about alcohol is a far cry from the image the industry conveys. Alcohol consumption affects a range of health, social and economic factors and is among the top 10 drivers of death worldwide.
“It’s time governments treat alcohol like the public health crisis that it is,” says Jacqui Drope, Director of RESET Alcohol at Vital Strategies.
That’s where RESET Alcohol comes in. This new global partnership, led by Vital Strategies, will promote the most effective interventions and policies to reduce alcohol consumption and its related harms.
“If we can show how effective alcohol taxation and other policies can be—such as restricting availability and advertising—we will start to see benefits to the health of populations and economies. This is where we are going to start.”
Harms Linked to Alcohol
“Every year, alcohol use cuts millions of lives short and causes even more widespread suffering,” says Adam Karpati, Senior Vice President, Public Health Programs at Vital Strategies.
“The onus can’t only be on individuals to reduce consumption while the alcohol industry promotes alcohol relentlessly,” Karpati continues. “We must reset from an environment where the alcohol industry is empowered to push alcohol into nearly every aspect of our lives and our children’s lives, including schools, sports and media. Alcohol consumption not only claims lives, but it also causes illness and injury, burdening health systems that are already stretched beyond capacity. It also triggers wide-ranging social and economic harms, deep into families and communities.”
And yet, the alcohol industry continues to benefit from a range of government-sponsored tax breaks, tax rebates, marketing deductions, production subsidies, and international trade agreement practices that promote alcohol use. These incentives strain health systems that are in dire need of investment. And the multi-trillion-dollar alcohol industry has the resources to employ strategies to further increase their reach and profits, including by influencing government policies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption.
A New Partnership
RESET Alcohol, a groundbreaking new $15 million initiative, aims to change the conversation about alcohol—away from a focus on individual behavior and toward changing policies that can reduce alcohol harms across populations. Led by Vital Strategies, it brings together national governments, civil society, research organizations, and global leaders in public health and alcohol policy to develop and implement evidence-based alcohol policies from the World Health Organization’s SAFER technical package, including increases in alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol availability, and restricting alcohol marketing.
RESET Alcohol is a collaboration between Vital Strategies, Movendi International; the University of Illinois Chicago; the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance GAPA); the NCD Alliance; and World Health Organization (WHO).
Curbing Alcohol Consumption
Over the next three years, this global initiative will provide national governments and civil society partners in at least 15 countries with technical and financial assistance toward their alcohol policy goals. Working primarily in Latin America, Africa and Asia, RESET Alcohol will build on the success of similar consortia that address the harmful influence of tobacco and have contributed to significant reductions in smoking.
One main strategy pursued will be increasing the cost of alcohol through taxation—a very effective yet underutilized method. Leveraging experience and expertise from across the consortium, the initiative will provide peer mentoring in areas such as policy and regulation development, taxation research, strategic communication and advocacy, and alcohol data and monitoring systems.
“We need policies that protect kids, make healthy choices the easy choices, and check industry’s influence,” says Drope. “RESET Alcohol will do just that through strong partnerships with government and civil society leaders who are committed to action.”
Stay tuned to learn more about the countries where RESET Alcohol will engage.
Click here to learn more about the new partnership and Vital Strategies’ work on alcohol policy.
Written by RESET Alcohol, Vital Strategies.
All IAS Blogposts are published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.