Alcohol-violence link row

Alcohol company Lion has accused academics of cherry-picking information for a critique of Lion-funded research that had denied a direct link between alcohol and violence.

Published in the journal Addiction, the critique by Auckland University's Nicki Jackson and Prof Kypros Kypri, of the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, takes to task British anthropologist Dr Anne Fox's Lion-funded research that blamed culture, rather than alcohol, for violence.

Prof Kypri, a former Dunedin researcher, still holds a position at the University of Otago. In a statement, the researchers were said to be ‘‘appalled'' by the industry-funded study, which had ignored the ‘‘huge body of evidence'' that showed the effectiveness of restricting alcohol.

‘‘Despite failing to meet even basic standards of research, the report cannot be ignored, because the findings are being used by the alcohol industry to overturn licensing decisions and in submissions on public policy.

‘‘We believe this was simply an effort by the alcohol industry to raise doubts about the existing evidence, which is strong,'' Prof Kypri said. In the South, the Lion-funded study has been defended by Hospitality New Zealand Otago president Mark Scully, who says drunks' behaviour can be modified by providing a good environment.

In a statement, Lion said Dr Fox presented 25 strategies to address the problem, and the academics chose to focus on only three. ‘‘To cherry-pick just three of them - educating children regarding proper behaviour when drinking, teaching parents how to talk to their children about alcohol, and educating the public about acceptable drinking behaviour via media campaigns - is misleading.''

‘‘And for the authors of this article to be ‘appalled' by these three suggestions seems extraordinary.

‘‘We stand by the report and believe it adds valuable insights into this important debate.''

Lion also sourced a response from Dr Fox, who defended her work. ‘‘The findings of my research report are surprising in that they challenge the popular notion that alcohol causes violence.

‘‘The research found that, in Australia and New Zealand, violent people were more likely to act violently in certain situations, but it also showed that alcohol does not create violence in non-violent people.''

Dr Fox said she was not arguing against restrictions on alcohol, but that approach would not work on its own.

Despite being industry-funded, her study was not influenced by the industry, and its arguments formed part of her doctoral thesis at Imperial College in London, she said.

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