While leading public health advocates at the recent Alcohol Policy 17 meeting dismissed the notion of any cooperation with the industry, the Responsible Retailing Forum (RRF) remains a bastion of collaboration to reduce/prevent alcohol-related problems. RRF’s Annual Forum in Boston last week included rare comingling of industry (represented by each of 3 tiers), regulators, enforcement, academics, researchers and even a public health advocate or two to explore areas of mutual concern and potential collaboration. Industry miscues are not ignored, but nor is industry excluded from debate and problem solving.
The wide-ranging program included a fascinating discussion of e-cigarettes/vaping where speakers charged that public health advocates and the federal government are seriously misrepresenting research to follow their own anti-tobacco company policy agendas. Some of the parallels to alcohol policy debates were striking. (Elsewhere, Reuters just ran a long article exploring criticisms of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO arm that has deemed alcohol a “known carcinogen,” but doesn’t really measure the critical issue of risk levels. This leads to confusion and misleads consumers, experts believe.)
Meanwhile, as if tackling sales to minors and service to intoxicated patrons isn’t enough, RRF has partnered with the International Town & Gown Association to take on stubborn campus drinking issues. That’s just as The Daily Iowan headlined “The Most Dangerous Drug at the UI? Alcohol.” And Bowling Green University’s newspaper featured drinking issues at that school. RRF has a full plate, indeed. But it also has the breadth and vision to make progress and develop best practices. We’ll flesh out details in this month’s Alcohol Issues INSIGHTS newsletter, as well as report on Alcohol Policy 17.