Political changes take time

Working with alcohol policy and advocating for evidence based measures, it seems too often that there is no progress or it is too small to call it that. Even if taxes are raised, the tax raise is usually way smaller than we would like to see and we consider it to be ineffective. If new restrictions for alcohol advertising are introduced they look of course as window dressing compared to total ban. Whatever is done regarding alcohol availability it looks almost like playing a game as young people still get hold of alcohol too easy.

The progress seems especially weak because of alcohol industry´s aggressive lobby and marketing practices. If we can witness a development in one of the areas, there is a counteraction from the industry that undermines the adopted decision.

Despite the fact that almost all countries and international organisations work with alcohol related harm, global statistics show that the problem still grows. In 2010, out of more than 60 risk factors, alcohol was ranked as the fifth leading cause of death and disability globally, up from eight place in 1990 (Lim SS et al 2012).

Countries in our region have seen some improvements and the overall growth is probably coming from regions in Asia and Africa where absence of comprehensive regulations allows global businesses to do aggressive campaigns finding new markets.

It is clear that globally the problem grows and it stresses the urgency of international reaction. There is no reason for being satisfied with the progress but at the same time it is good to look at it from some time distance to be able to better evaluate the situation.

There is a fine line between constructive and destructive criticism. It should be in our interest to know that line very well. We are advocates, working for a positive change.

And that is why I think lawmakers should hear positive feedback from us if praise (or something of that sort) is due. It was NordAN´s honorary president and long time Swedish politician Gabriel Romanus who said at the NordAN Vilnius conference (2011) that politicians are people too. So simple but something we sometimes tend to forget. If for instance after strong push to get a new alcohol policy legislation though, they receive only critisism from us because the result was´nt good enough, it most definitely affects their willingness for future cooperation.

Progress takes time. And when we look back 10 years, we can say that much have been achieved in this time. True, not all changes have been good and of course, most changes are not quite good enough. But we have to learn to take what can be taken and move on.

One of the issues where this longer time span is most definitely helpful is alcohol related harm from unruly air passengers. NordAN has worked with it since Malmö conference (2012) but when we look even further back we can see how this aspect that can easily be categorized under passive drinking umbrella, has grown and is still doing that. I would like to draw your attention to our recent progress report that shows the momentum that is slowly but steadily building up. Take a look at the report HERE.

Lauri Beekmann is the Secretary General of NordAN