In total, 198 written records were collected and analysed for this study. Websites and social media pages of trade associations represented most of the information identified for the CPA of the alcohol industry in Portugal (approximately 68%), followed by SAPRO (17%). Government material and media material represented 13% and 3%, respectively. No information was identified on universities’ websites. Overall, we found both instrumental (56%) and discursive (44%) strategies.
3.1. Instrumental Strategies
The instrumental strategies identified are listed in Table 1
Alcohol industry actors interacted with entities that otherwise could have interests opposed to those of the industry, including health organisations. Representatives of the industry founded and continued to be part of the national forum on alcohol and health. They hold monthly meetings with the national health authorities to discuss public policy (A1, 133). Information published on both the industry’s and the national forum’s websites state that the industry shares the same objectives as health authorities (A1, A132). At least two trade associations are also part of the executive commission of this forum (A1, 95), having a leading role in its activities:
“ANEBE, as a founding organisation and current member of the executive commission of the National Alcohol and Health Forum, shares the same goals as the health community” (A1).
“Cervejeiros de Portugal (…) is a member of the executive commission of the National Alcohol and Health Forum and a member of the National Council for the Coordination of drugs, addiction and harmful use of alcohol” (A95).
We identified references to meetings and initiatives with representatives of the General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (A30, 31, 58) with a regional secretary of health (A33) and with secretaries of state (184) to emphasize the importance of an “intelligent alcohol consumption” (A30). ACIBEV also mentioned on their website a meeting with the Secretary of State for the European Affairs with whom European policy on alcohol was discussed (A82).
There is a record on both ACIBEV’s and the Parliament’s website inviting the President of the Parliamentary Commission on Agriculture and Sea (A163), the Secretary of State for Civil Protection and the Assistant of the Secretary of State for Mobility (A184), the sub-director for the General Directorate for Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies (A57), and the General-Inspector of the National Authority for Food and Economic Safety (A57) to a “sunset with wine” to “celebrate the longer and warmer days of summer” (A57).
There is a record of a meeting in January 2018 with the Portuguese ambassador for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to “discuss the concerns of the sector…” (A85) and Cervejeiros de Portugal refers to a “privileged contact” with the Ministry of Health on their website (A95). Also, a SAPRO, 100% Cool, refers to an informal meeting with the President of the Portuguese Republic at a public event in February 2018 on their social media page (A195).
Industry representatives organised scientific conferences partnering with the Portuguese Association of Nutrition (A113), inviting researchers and stating their affiliations in order to establish credibility (114). Similarly, when contacting the media about the health impacts of alcohol, the Associação dos Cervejeiros de Portugal transmitted messages via an expert, identified as a nutritionist, with the same article referring to her additional work as a consultant for the industry on health issues (A142).
We found evidence that the alcohol industry collaborates with the Portuguese police and security forces. This was observed extensively, especially through the SAPRO “100% Cool” which had routine operations with security services, awarding drivers who had no alcohol in their breath and giving out information on moderate and responsible alcohol consumption (A26, 27, 50, 141, 164-172, 175, 179-80, 182, 186, 189, 192-3).
There were several examples of involvement of the alcohol industry in the community through initiatives in different areas such as cinema (A91), cultural events (A48), and music events (A190). 100% Cool was present in the major universities’ festivities in the country (A170, 173, 174, 176) and Associação dos Cervejeiros de Portugal refers to a partnership with the national parents’ association, the national teachers’ association, and with the Portuguese Institute of Youth (A96). It is also a founding member of the Portuguese society for recycling (Sociedade Ponto Verde) (A94).
The ANEBE ordered a market study from a consultancy firm, which was delivered to the Portuguese Parliament upon contestation of a possible increase in taxes on alcoholic beverages. This concluded that increases in taxes would not be beneficial and would even harm the national economy (A39, 148, 162). The study was extensively used by the alcohol industry to lobby against the proposed changes in the taxation. To our knowledge, no other study was taken into consideration by the Portuguese Parliament. Eventually, the measure was not adopted by the Government. (“Taxes were frozen according to rein vindications by beer and liquor drinks producers (…) according to the proposal for the State Budget of 2019, the Government heard their arguments” (A198)).
3.2. Discursive Strategies
Discursive strategies are depicted in Table 2
. Other arguments which did not fit in the existing CPA/policy dystopia classification but were relevant to the analysis are listed in Table 3
The comparison to neighbouring Spain’s tax policy on alcoholic beverages was found repeatedly, both to emphasize the unfairness of any increase in taxes and to argue for their decrease to stop illicit trade (A28, 122, 159). This was found both in the websites of two trade associations (A28, 122) and in the study paid for by ANEBE delivered to the Portuguese Parliament (as previously described) (“… aligning the tax in a community perspective, regarding Spain, will allow a reduction in smuggling and cross-border shopping” (A159)).
The importance of self-regulation by the industry was frequently mentioned as a necessity and that it was justifiable given the claim of the industry as a responsible one (A16, 49, 59, 70, 90, 107). Self-regulation was also cited by the ACIBEV as a crucial part of creating value in the production of wine (A90). In Portugal, it appeared that all these trade associations were self-regulating their activities.
There were several mentions of the benefits of alcohol, without an adequate portrayal of the harms posed by it. Indeed, we found references to alcohol being an important component of a healthy diet (A101, 103, 126) and good for one’s health (“…the consumption of beer is beneficial to one’s health…” (A115)).
Beer was portrayed as an important source of vitamins and water for the body, including being mentioned as a way to satisfy thirst (A105). Wine and beer components were mentioned in the industry’s websites as protective factors in cardiovascular diseases (A87), Parkinson’s (A87), Alzheimer’s (A87), diabetes mellitus type 2 (A88, 97), nephrolithiasis (A97), eye cataracts (A97), anaemia (A124), osteoporosis (A124), and as a way to boost the immune system (A124).
One record was found mentioning the association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (A196). However, the association was misrepresentative, avoiding the scientific and the common nomenclature for breast cancer in Portuguese, referring to it as “chest cancer” (A196).
The concept of a risky consumption was widely used to justify the need for an individual-level approach (A71, 73, 79, 80, 86) to minimise the health impacts of alcohol (A134) and to make a connection between the cultural role of alcohol in Portugal in comparison to other countries (A70). As such, any population-level approach was branded as unfair to responsible drinkers (A72).
Another practice we found was the creation of an online calculator of the concentration of blood alcohol by ANEBE (A9). This tool was marketed as a way for consumers to be responsible and aware of their alcoholic blood concentration before driving, putting an emphasis on individual behaviour and responsibility (A9). A topic repeatedly found was the cultural comparison between Portugal and other countries, with the argument that in Portugal, similarly to other southern European countries and in contrast to northern ones, alcohol is part of the history and culture, hence the consumption is moderate, harmless, and part of the lifestyle (A16, 52, 68, 138).
“The consumption of alcohol varies significantly between European countries. In Southern Europe (Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Portugal) there is a wine-making tradition, with daily consumptions that accompany meals and in general, a repudiation of drunkenness in public” (A138).
This was also used to justify why stricter public measures regarding alcohol control probably did not need to be applied in Portugal and in countries with similar traditions:
“Southern countries must unite, because when measures are applied there will not be a distinction between wine and vodka.” (A79).
Through interviews in the media, industry’s representatives voiced the danger of Portugal following the example of other countries, citing for example Ireland’s recent policy that introduced health warnings on alcohol beverages’ labels (A43, 53, 55, 56, 84). Industry actors framed the policy as a war on the industry “anti-alcohol lobbies want to deny us a glass of wine with the meal.” (A75). They also considered it inadequate in the Portuguese context, inclusively being framed as a cultural imposition:
“we alert for the danger of increasing the price and restricting advertising on alcoholic drinks, as has happened in northern European countries” (A55).
“there is a web of activity, involving several entities who want to create a restrictive environment on alcohol and impose a northern culture on southern European countries.” (A65).