Dr. William DeJong is a professor in the Boston University School of Public Health. He tells us what’s wrong with the alcohol industry. Dr. DeJong explains that by using the term “the alcohol industry” activists are “trying to tap into the public’s general suspicion of profit-making big business. Harking back to the trust busting days of the early 1900’s, some advocates have even started throwing around the epithet ‘Big Alcohol.’”
Dr. DeJong points out some of the problems caused by using such terms. “First, using these catchall terms obscures important differences between producers, distributors, and vendors.” It also masks important differences between beer, wine and distilled spirits producers, who are frequently at odds over public policy and other matters.
- large and small producers
- importers and non-importers
- California vintners and New York State vintners
- large retailers and mom-and-pop retailers
- bars and restaurants serving alcohol
- operations in alcohol monopoly and non-monopoly states
And the list goes on and on.
The so-called alcohol industry is highly fragmented. It has many conflicting interests and is unable to speak with one voice. There’s really no such thing as “the alcohol industry” or “Big Alcohol.” Using these terms may be useful for stirring up emotions. However, it is highly inaccurate…even deceptive.
Dr. DeJong also emphasizes that use of such terms creates a serious problem. It discourages efforts to find common ground between both sides. That is, between alcohol abuse prevention professionals and those who produce, distribute or retail alcoholic beverages. He points out that there are many successful collaborations. They include responsible beverage service programs and voluntary agreements promoting responsible alcohol consumption by a variety of means. These are win-win collaborations and the public benefits.
Unfortunately, many well-meaning activists strongly oppose any collaboration with “the enemy.” They believe that alcohol beverages are bad and that those who produce, distribute and retail them are bad. So they cut off their nose to spite their face. In reality, producers, distributors and retailers have for many decades demonstrated a strong and continuing commitment to reducing alcohol problems.
That’s what’s wrong with “the alcohol industry.”
DeJong, W. What’s in a name? Let me count the ways. Prevention File, 18(2), 2-5. Dr. William DeJong is Professor in the School of Public Health at Boston University. He is former director of the U.S. Department of Education’s s Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Preventio. Dr. DeJong has published his research widely.