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Part of Culture or Toxic Substance? Realities in Transition in Australian and Canadian Alcohol Policy Documents

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-25, 00:56 authored by Helen Keane, David MooreDavid Moore, Kathryn Graham
This article analyzes alcohol policy documents through the framework of ontological politics developed by science and technology studies theorists John Law and Annemarie Mol. Specifically, it analyzes seven Australian and Canadian documents from 2006 to 2020, focusing on different enactments of alcohol as a harm-producing substance that requires regulation. The article identifies and discusses two co-existing realities of alcohol enacted in these documents: (1) alcohol as part of culture, with benefits and harms manageable through the promotion of moderation; and (2) alcohol as an inherently harmful and toxic substance whatever its pattern of use. The enactment of alcohol as a toxic substance is supported by recent scientific knowledge, in particular the link between drinking and cancer. This second reality of alcohol as toxic is more prominent in the more recent documents; in particular, a transition from one dominant reality to another is clearly apparent in the changes from the 2006–2009 Australian national alcohol strategy to the 2019–2028 strategy. Changes in the dominant reality of alcohol enable or at least support certain policy initiatives while making others less possible and defensible. Focusing on the single reality of alcohol as inherently harmful to health and wellbeing reduces the options for preventing alcohol-related harms.


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Publication Date



Contemporary Drug Problems






14p. (p. 405-418)





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© 2022. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license, whereby credit must be given to the creator, only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted and no derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted.

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