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World trade law and a framework convention on alcohol control
  1. Ben Baumberg
  1. Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ben Baumberg, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK; b.p.baumberg{at}

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Spurred by the creation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, there have been increasing calls for the adoption of a similar agreement for alcohol, usually termed a “Framework Convention on Alcohol Control” (FCAC). The American Public Health Association and Indian Government have both explicitly called for such a convention, as have editorials and articles in leading medical journals.1 Furthermore, the World Medical Association has been broadly positive, as has the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

Why are these influential groups calling for such a convention? On one level it is because alcohol is both a major public health and social welfare problem, accounting for 3.8% of global mortality and 4.6% of the global burden of disease2 as well as around $210 to $665 billion of social costs.3 However, beyond this, there is a need to show how an FCAC could help, and leading supporters cite three main arguments.4 5

First, an FCAC could combat the treatment of alcohol as an “ordinary commodity” in world trade law such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, which advocates claim interfere with nation states' ability to reduce harm. An FCAC is unlikely to simply over-rule previous trade agreements; the “last in time” rule …

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  • Competing interests Until June 2008, BB was an employee of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, which is primarily funded by the Alliance House Foundation (formerly the UK Temperance Alliance). Further details about the aims and operation of the IAS can be found from BB continues to receive funding from the Institute and has also received funding from the World Health Organization and the European Commission for projects on related topics. BB is writing in a personal capacity, and the views expressed in this article should not be interpreted as the official position of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.