Introduction: Alcohol is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally. One significant barrier to the implementation of evidence-based alcohol policy is alcohol industry opposition. Making submissions to national policy processes is one way in which the industry exert influence. The aim of this study was to analyse alcohol industry submissions into Australia's National Alcohol Strategy to determine key assertions made by the alcohol industry and the ways in which they use evidence and refute the effectiveness of public health policies to make their claims.
Methods: Submissions made by alcohol industry actors (n = 12) were analysed using content analysis to determine key industry assertions. A pre-existing framework on alcohol industry use of evidence was then applied to analyse the evidentiary practices used to make these assertions.
Results: Five common industry assertions were identified: ‘Drinking alcohol in moderation has health benefits’; ‘Alcohol isn't the cause of violence’; ‘Targeted initiatives, not population level alcohol policies, are needed’; ‘Strong alcohol advertising regulations are not necessary’; and ‘Minimum unit price and pricing and taxation policies more broadly are not needed’. The industry systematically manipulated, misused and ignored evidence throughout their submissions.
Discussion and Conclusions: The alcohol industry is misusing evidence in their submissions to government consultations to make their assertions about alcohol policy. It is therefore essential that industry submissions are scrutinised and not accepted on face value. Additionally, it is suggested that the alcohol industry requires a distinct model of governance similarly to that which regulates the tobacco industry to prevent their attempts to undermine evidence-based public health policy.