Drink Tank

The alcohol industry, unhealthy commodity producers and health governance

At the 2017 Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC) in Melbourne, Professor Jeff Collin explored the links between the world’s leading alcohol producers and manufacturers of tobacco and ultra-processed food products, political elites and health and development agencies.

Jeff Collin PhD is a professor of global health policy in the Global Public Health Unit, School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.  A political scientist, his research focuses on global health governance and strategies used by unhealthy commodity industries to influence public policy.

In this short video, filmed at GAPC 2017, Professor Collin unpacks the expansion of unhealthy commodity industries, how the alcohol industry is inextricably linked to other industries, and how public health can respond to these effectively at national and international levels.

Professor Collin questions why governments are prepared to take decisive action to regulate the tobacco industry and exclude them from policy making, yet so often view the alcohol industry as a potential ‘partner in progress’.

At an international level at tobacco control there are guidelines that essentially require governments to keep the tobacco industry away from the policy-making process. Whereas in so many contexts, alcohol companies are seen as having contributions to make in the development of the alcohol policy.

So much of the experience of tobacco control and so much of the evidence base suggests that excluding the commercial interests who have a vested interest in selling harmful products is likely to be a pre-condition for the development of effective policies.

Professor Collin explains that what underpins the success of tobacco control in Australia and internationally, is taking conflict of interest seriously – by recognising that there are very powerful commercial interests who are actively looking to undermine the development of effective health policies that would reduce their profits.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda is going to define global health and development for the next 15 years. This is a really important opportunity, in that for the first time non-communicable diseases are included within the global health and development agenda. But it’s such a big agenda now that issues [like alcohol] are really having to grapple for a place on the agenda.

There are real opportunities to leverage key commitments within the SDGs to advance effective health policies nationally and internationally.


Jeff Collin from FAREAustralia on Vimeo.



Drink Tank aims to generate meaningful commentary and debate about alcohol policy, and to provide a platform for all members of the Australian community to share their views and concerns.

Our goal is for the Drink Tank community to engage in robust discussion about alcohol, highlighting a broad spectrum of views and voices, and ultimately to raise the profile of alcohol as an issue of national importance.

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