In the September issue of National Liquor News, Greg Holland, CEO of Spirits and Cocktails Australia, discusses the goals of the World Spirits Alliance.
During this year’s Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, it was inspirational to watch people competing at the very peak of their abilities, while also being united in the spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect. The Olympics is proof that when competitors come together in a spirit of collegiality, everyone can win.
The same principle lies at the foundation of the World Spirits Alliance (WSA), an international trade association that provides a common forum for exchange between spirits producers and acts as a representative voice on issues of global relevance, particularly before organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In July, I was elected to the WSA board as the Australasian and Oceania representative – an honour I am excited to embrace.
The WSA is committed to advocating on a number of important issues, including the elimination of trade barriers; fair, transparent and evidence-based regulation of spirits; and appropriate excise tax structures. As Spirits and Cocktails Australia continues its joint campaign with the Australian Distillers Association for a fairer spirits tax in Australia, that last objective is particularly close to my heart.
The WSA is also passionate about ensuring that all public health measures targeting spirits be proportionate and evidence-based. That would seem like a reasonable expectation of our lawmakers and regulatory authorities. Unfortunately, regardless of their country of origin, most WSA members have encountered the problem of spirits being misconceived or even deliberately misrepresented as ‘stronger’ and more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages.
Sometimes competing alcohol producers encourage this view. But too many government officials and public health advocates also promote this misconception. For example, some countries have a lower legal drinking age for beer or wine, while others prohibit spirits
advertising but allow that advertising for beer and wine.
The reality is, all alcohol (ethanol) is the same, and a ‘standard’ drink has the same amount of alcohol, with the same effects on the body, whether it is consumed as beer, wine or spirits. From a health perspective, what matters is how much alcohol is consumed, and
the pattern of consumption.
Any alcoholic beverage can be enjoyed safely; conversely, any beverage can become toxic in excess, which is more likely to happen if misinformation abounds. That’s why it is so important to educate consumers about the concept of a ‘standard’ drink of alcohol, and what it looks like in particular beverages, as well as differing containers and glass sizes. With this knowledge, for example, consumers can compare whether a glass of wine has more or less alcohol than a serving of whisky or a can of beer.
To drink safely, consumers must be equipped with the facts. That’s why we urge all governments to promote accurate information about standard drink sizes and we will always support education campaigns that encourage consumers to monitor their consumption and mitigate their risks.