Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) Executive Director Fergus Taylor has renewed the calls for alcohol related research to be open and transparent and free of manipulation.
The move comes after three recent studies that sensationalised findings to create negative sentiment towards alcohol. Taylor said a research paper had incorrectly recommended lower drinking guidelines, another attempted to link alcohol with Pre- Menstrual Stress (PMS) and a third tried to blame advertising for underage drinking. He added that all three reports had relied on “dubious claims and carefully crafted media releases” in order to get their erroneous messages across.
“When these studies are released they are largely trusted by mainstream media and reported in good faith, so these dubious claims get a lot of oxygen and can influence public perceptions,” Taylor told TheShout.
“The Lancet Journal article received international attention, calling for a lowering of drinking guidelines, but its own evidence actually showed a person who drinks 30 standard drinks per week has about the same life expectancy as someone who doesn’t drink at all.
“The researchers admitted they did not include non-drinkers in the study, which skewed the results to focus only on how increasing consumption from light to moderate can impact a person’s life expectancy.”
Another report saw media outlets run with headlines claiming that reducing alcohol consumption could relieve the symptoms of PMS. The media release for the report pushed this notion despite the PMS study finding no causal relationship between alcohol and PMS.
“The authors themselves state it is impossible to say PMS is caused by drinking alcohol and yet they present their findings to suggest exactly that and allow the misinterpretation to be reported unchallenged,” Taylor said.
Taylor also highlighted a third study which has called for a review of alcohol advertising guidelines, citing only interviews with ‘heavy drinkers’ aged 16-19 years old, and again he said that there was no evidence of any causal effect between the advertising and underage drinking.
“The consistent long term positive trends in Australia’s drinking behaviour while alcohol advertising has increased and expanded onto new platforms, prove that the strongly regulated alcohol advertising we see in Australia is neither causing nor driving underage drinking,” Taylor said.
The ABA says it is important that alcohol related research should be open and transparent so that public debate can take place in an environment that is free of manipulation.
He said that all governments and research institutions involved in the debate around alcohol should make all publicly funded research completely transparent and publicly available, so people can be sure they can believe and trust what they see and hear.