Getting policy right
The industry advocates effective, evidence-based regulation to maintain a positive role for alcohol in society and to develop and implement solutions to alcohol misuse.
The alcohol industry is already one of the most highly regulated in the world. As a responsible business, Diageo supports policies where they are evidence-based, account for drinking patterns, target at‑risk groups, treat all forms of alcohol equally, and involve all stakeholders.
That is why, in addition to arguing for effective industry-wide standards in responsible marketing and selling, providing helpful information for consumers, and supporting effective programmes to tackle alcohol misuse, we publicly advocate that governments should adopt a minimum legal purchasing age of not less than 18, and a maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for drivers of no more than 0.08mg. We also support lower BACs for novice and commercial drivers, high-visibility enforcement of drink driving laws, and alcohol interlocks (that is, breathalysers to stop a car from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol level is above a certain limit) for repeat drink drivers.
We oppose measures that are not evidence-based and that are likely to have unintended consequences, such as the use of high taxes to control consumption. While we fully support measures to tackle harmful drinking, high taxes are a blunt instrument. They often have the most impact on moderate consumers rather than reducing demand among those who misuse alcohol. In countries with significant informal sectors, high taxes can also have the unintended consequence of driving consumers into non‑commercial, unregulated markets where beverage alcohol is untaxed and sometimes unsafe.
Setting a minimum legal price per unit for alcohol is advocated by some NGOs and some governments as a measure to tackle harmful drinking. Diageo strongly supports the objective of trying to tackle alcohol misuse, but we are concerned that minimum pricing is an unproven measure which fails to address the underlying causes of problem drinking.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, the evidence shows that although minimum pricing may reduce overall alcohol consumption, it will not significantly change the drinking habits of the heaviest drinkers. Rather, minimum pricing would treat all drinkers the same and therefore penalise the overwhelming majority of adults who enjoy drinking alcohol, and who do so in a legal and socially acceptable way, causing harm neither to themselves nor to others.
A serious unintended consequence of excessively high tax rates as a means of curbing alcohol misuse is to exacerbate the problem of non‑commercial alcohol. According to the WHO, at least 30% of all alcohol consumed around the world is unrecorded, including home-produced, illicit, counterfeit, and surrogate beverages. It is unregulated, untaxed, and sometimes unsafe.
According to WHO, consumption of illicitly or informally produced alcohol could have additional negative health consequences due to its higher ethanol content and potential contamination with toxic substances, such as methanol. Where harmful non‑commercial products are consumed in large quantities, they represent a serious social, economic, and public health challenge.
A recent example of this occurred in 2012 in the Czech Republic, where bootlegged alcohol mixed with lethal methanol resulted in at least 31 confirmed deaths and led to the temporary suspension of the sale of all beverages over 20% alcohol by volume.
We are working to understand better the scope of the informal market and its implications so that it can be addressed through policy and programmes, in accordance with the ICAP Global Actions. This will enable a wide range of stakeholders to combat the spread and consumption of harmful non‑commercial alcohol more effectively. However, there are complex social and economic factors, and developing policies and interventions in this field requires better enforcement, new approaches, and the engagement of all stakeholders.
UN strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol
Endorsed by all member states in May 2010, the WHO’s global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol presented a menu of policy options and interventions to address alcohol misuse at a national level. This strategy is becoming even more important as countries seek to reduce non‑communicable diseases (NCDs) for which alcohol misuse is one of several risk factors.
In May 2013, the UN adopted a global framework with a target of reducing mortality from NCDs, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, by 25% by 2025, with many associated targets, including reducing harmful alcohol consumption by 10%.
We support the balanced and pragmatic approach addressed by the WHO global strategy and the UN's NCD framework and will work with member states and our own stakeholders achieve these goals.
European Union alcohol strategy
Diageo has long been an active and constructive partner in support of EU action to tackle alcohol misuse. In 2006, the European Union adopted a strategy on alcohol-related harm, and we welcome its continuing operation. As a member of the European Alcohol and Health Forum, which aims to deliver the objectives of the strategy, we have partnered with governments, local authorities, civil society, NGOs, and the academic community to tackle alcohol misuse. We regard the Forum as an essential platform to demonstrate how to facilitate partnerships, improve dialogue, and share best practices towards our common goal.
Membership of industry bodies
We have helped establish many social aspects organisations (SAOs) – industry-funded bodies that work with governments, the private sector, and NGOs to promote responsible drinking. We also fund responsible drinking programmes through some of our trade associations. A list of our SAOs and trade associations that run responsible drinking initiatives can be found in the table below.