Regulatory policy

preparedness for future pandemic events. Brief 7, July 2022 (snapshot series on alcohol control policies and practices)

Insight

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol consumption and smoking

Throughout the pandemic, changes in alcohol and tobacco consumption have been observed, coupled with an increased likelihood of serious COVID-19 infections among those who consume alcohol and use tobacco. In response, countries in the Southeast Asian region have implemented a series of policy approaches affecting the acceptability, availability and affordability of alcohol and tobacco to deal with these changes. .

Policy measures and regulatory changes during the COVID-19 pandemic

Most of the country’s efforts have focused on changing the acceptability and availability of alcohol and tobacco, for example by raising awareness of the relationships between alcohol consumption and tobacco use, as well as the severity and mortality of COVID-19 infections. Similarly, many countries restricted the sale of alcohol on the premises and to take away during the first waves of the pandemic. In addition, some countries have increased their support for people who use alcohol and tobacco, for example by increasing availability and access to telephone and virtual mental health supports. Significant involvement of the alcohol and tobacco industries has also been observed in countries in the Southeast Asian region, mainly through corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic

Five lessons learned emerged from the findings across the 11 countries, including 1) a strong focus on measures related to the acceptability and availability of alcohol and tobacco; 2) a significant expansion of online ordering and home delivery of alcohol and tobacco products; 3) measures related to acceptability and availability are easier to implement and often come under emergency acts; 4) youThe temporality of the measures reduced the potential for long-term gains in health and well-being that could have been experienced if these measures had been maintained; 5) countries may find it difficult to feel accountable to industry after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advice for future pandemic events

Guidance for future pandemic events brings together findings from each of the 11 countries as well as synthesized evidence collected during the pandemic. In the face of future public health emergencies, this guidance suggests, among other actions, that countries introduce stricter regulations to protect public health goals at the expense of vested interests, combine the widespread exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from lists of essential products to expand coverage and options available to support smoking cessation and deal with withdrawals, and raise taxes on alcohol and tobacco and avoid implementing concessions from the industry, such as the deferral of tax payments.