Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity

Some of you may be familiar with the book Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity which was first published in 2003 (you can download an eight page summary of the book from here). An updated version was published last year by Oxford University Press.

The core of the book is a critical review of the cumulative scientific evidence in seven general areas of alcohol policy:

  • pricing and taxation
  • regulating the physical availability of alcohol
  • modifying the environment in which drinking occurs
  • drinking-driving countermeasures
  • marketing restrictions
  • primary prevention programs in schools and other settings
  • treatment and early intervention services.

The last section of the book evaluates 42 different policy options to reduce alcohol-related harm. Overall, the strongest, most cost-effective strategies include taxation that increases prices, restrictions on the physical availability of alcohol, drink-driving countermeasures, brief interventions with at-risk drinkers and treatment of drinkers with alcohol dependence. The journal Addiction published a summary of the second edition in May 2010 (Volume 105, issue 5, pp.769-779).

This landmark book inspired a series of annual forums in Ontario beginning in 2004. Each forum draws upon a theme from the book. This year’s forum will be held March 7-8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario and is called “Alcohol Policy: Movement in Ontario – The Crucial Need for Policy in Addressing Alcohol Problems.” A guide and summary of past forums is available from the Alcohol Policy Network and can be viewed here.

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