At a brewers’ conference this spring, an alcohol lobbyist fired a warning shot in what has become a multimillion-dollar global battle. Public-health officials “want to tell you that alcohol causes cancer,” Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, told the crowd. The industry, she said, was in danger of losing its “health halo.”
“There is no safe level of drinking,” U.K. Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies told a British television interviewer.
The parallels with smoking are eerie.
In the U.S., Guy Smith, a former tobacco-industry executive who now works for Diageo, recently called a study of alcohol advertisements “junk science” that tarnished those behind it. Though the rebuke didn’t involve research on health implications of drinking, it sent a message to alcohol researchers that their work was open to being questioned.
“We push back when there are dumb studies,” Mr. Smith said.
Brewer AB InBev last year launched a program called Smart Drinking Goals that aims to address the WHO’s concerns by reducing the use of alcohol in six cities by 10% over 10 years. AB InBev recently introduced a nonalcoholic Budweiser in Canada and aims to have 20% of its volume come from no- or low-alcohol beer by 2025.
Hands up those of you who think they're going to meet that 20% goal.