FARE has released another campaign targeting suppliers of liquor, claiming they “exploit” and are “dependent” on problem drinkers.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education just released its “Risky Business” initiative. It bases its accusations on a 2014 article in trade magazine National Liquor News about that year’s LMG (Liquor Marketing Group) conference in New Zealand, which borrowed the term ‘super consumer’ to describe the strongest sector of any market.
A guest speaker at the conference was Michael Walton, executive director of international research company Nielsen.
Speaking to PubTIC, Walton said the talk drew insights from US consumer data on common consumables, such as cheese, and was part of the goal to assist the marketing conference.
“The presentation was about the need for manufacturers to find better ways to understand consumers,” said Walton.
“Categories such as liquor – with historical declines in volume – are more relevant than any for this.”
Walton confirmed that FARE had not contacted Nielsen for any clarification on the matter.
The Australian Hotels Association WA was somewhat less subdued in its response to the campaign, lashing out at FARE again over suggestions liquor merchants are effectively to blame for drinkers’ choices.
“Retailers and suppliers of alcohol take their obligation to supply liquor responsibly very seriously, and specifically discourage excess and underage consumption,” exclaimed Brad Woods, AHA WA CEO.
“Strict guidelines and legislation contain penalties, trade restrictions and punitive measures against licensees and premises who do not comply.”
The national guidelines on alcohol consumption to which FARE refers are spelled out on the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) website.
The Government body released its “new approach” to estimating the risks of harm from drinking by issuing what it deems to be a guideline to a level “at which the risk of alcohol-related harm remains low over a lifetime”.
Its holistic approach heeds the importance of taking the information in context.
By comparison, the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests three standard drinks per day for men as a daily average maximum, further highlighting the subjective nature of the guidelines.
But perhaps more importantly, medical researchers draw a clear line between the use of alcohol and other mood-altering drugs and sufferers of conditions such as depression and anxiety. While there is no suggestion that self-medicating with these substances is beneficial to conditions, medical practitioners recognise that sufferers seek “escape”.
There is no suggestion that the availability of alcohol is in fact the cause of their problems.
By this rationale, FARE’s attack on the liquor industry for supplying heavy drinkers is tantamount to blaming them for what the not-for-profit organisation sees as faults in the existing laws.
FARE was established courtesy of a $115 million Government grant in 2001, following failure to pass parliamentary law on the topic of draught beer excise.
It has often been criticised for spending public money on what are seen to be “poorly targeted” initiatives.
PubTIC spoke with LMG, whose Marketing title is at the centre of the debate, but the Group declined to provide a comment at this stage.
It is unclear how much ‘research’ went into FARE’s campaign beyond one magazine article, but in the words of Ronald Coase, “If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything”.