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Working together on alcohol policy

Professor Sally Casswell, from SHORE, College of Health at Massey University in New Zealand, stresses the urgent need for a global approach to alcohol policy.

Professor Casswell joined alcohol policy experts from around the world at a public forum held in Melbourne last week. The event, hosted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education and the Kettil Bruun Society for Social and Epidemiological Research on Alcohol, provided an opportunity for world leading researchers to discuss global perspectives to reducing alcohol harms.

“We are living, as we all know, in an increasingly globalised world,” says Professor Casswell. “Many of the changes that are happening around alcohol are happening in the emerging alcohol markets, the middle and lower income countries not just the higher income national jurisdictions.

“I think it’s important for all of us to be aware of, and thinking about, the need for a global response. We know that alcohol is no ordinary commodity. But we also know that there is no strong global response at this stage.”

Professor Casswell noted that although the World Health Organization has a Global Strategy on alcohol it currently lacks the strength, the legal weighting and the status that is associated with a framework convention for tobacco control.

“There are of course a number of reasons why there is this difference,” she says. “Alcohol is seen as one of the risk factors for non-communicable diseases but it seems to be given a less important role compared with tobacco and even unhealthy food. However, we have to be aware of the fact that a lot of the harm coming from alcohol is not confined to non-communicable diseases. It is coming from injury, from mental health issues and from harm to others.”

Professor Casswell spoke about historical influences on worldwide policy uptake and regulation, along with the role of the transnational alcohol corporations. She also referenced the growth of global liquor brands and their increasing promotional reach following the removal of geographical boundaries in the digital age.

“The alcohol industry has played a very, very clever and competent game using all its resources to ensure that the kind of approach taken with tobacco has not been taken around alcohol.”

Professor Casswell suggests that further resources be allocated to developing a strong global strategy to effectively reduce alcohol-related harms.

“There are lots of writings now talking about the need to focus towards an alcohol specific policy goal and we are beginning to see a really good body of evidence developing, documenting what’s happening at national and international level. We need to keep this conversation alive.”


View Professor Sally Casswell’s presentation in full on Vimeo.

For more coverage of the ‘Reducing alcohol harms: A global perspective’ public forum event visit www.fare.org.au/media-news/events/reducing-alcohol-harms-a-global-perspective.

The Kettil Bruun Society Thematic meeting and related events are supported with funding from VicHealth, the City of Yarra, FARE and the Australian Government Department of Health.

Sally Casswell

Sally Casswell is a Professor at SHORE, College of Health at Massey University in New Zealand.

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