Alcohol no ordinary commodity

Title: Alcohol no ordinary commodity

Year of Publication: 2003

Author: Thomas Babor

Subject: Alcohol

Summary: From a public health perspective, alcohol is no ordinary consumer product. On a       global level, it is a major contributor to disease, disability and premature mortality. It also has an adverse impact on many aspect of social life. This book describes recent advances in alcohol research that have direct relevance to the development of effective alcohol policies at the local, national and international levels. It covers the search for policies that protect that health, prevent disability, and address the social problems associated with the misuse of beverage alcohol. This book is, at its core, a scientific treaties on what alcohol policy is, why it is needed, which interventions are effectively, how policy is made, and how scientific evidence can inform the policy-making process.

The book opens with an introduction to the alcohol policy agenda. The second section then presents a snapshot of drinking patterns and alcohol related problems throughout the world, providing a global panorama of the challenges faced. The third section critically reviews the evidence for six strategies that have often been used as a basis for alcohol policy: taxation and pricing, regulating the physical availability of alcohol, modifying the drinking context, drinking-driving countermeasures, regulating alcohol promotions, education and persuasion programs, and treatment and early intervention services. Section four provides an international analysis of the policy making process. The book includes with a consumer’s guide to effective alcohol policy, synthesizing what is known about how communities and nation states can effectively manage this extraordinary commodity.

Alcohol has multiple functions in any society. Alcoholic beverages have important cultural and symbolic meanings. They are commodities that are bought and sold in the marketplace. And alcohol is a drug with toxic effects and other intrinsic dangers such as intoxication and dependence.  This chapter examines these different functions, paying special attention to the contrast between alcohol’s role as a commodity and as a drug. An understanding of this contrast is essential to the book’s central purpose.

In recent years, public discussion of alcohol policies has too often ignored or downplayed the need to understand both the nature of the agent and its harmful properties, with an implicit acceptance of the idea that alcohol is only an ordinary commodity like any other marketable product. The validity of this assumption is questioned by evidence showing that alcohol intoxication, alcohol dependence. And the toxic effects of alcohol on various organ systems are key mechanisms linking alcohol consumption to a wide range of adverse consequences.