I agree with some of the points raised by Robson [1]. First, I am delighted with his assertion that my editorial [2] has good points to offer. I wrote the editorial to express my concern with the potential harm that could come from the book under review [3]. If one of the authors of the book agrees that the editorial has good points, then I may have achieved my goal. Secondly, I also commend him for taking full responsibility for his cooperation with the industry. This open stance will be helpful in any future dialogue that the industry and those who cooperate with it may have with public health professionals.

Thirdly, I am also glad that he agrees that population-level policies designed to control per-capita alcohol consumption are important in the prevention of alcohol-related problems. As I stated in the editorial, those who advocate for such policies do not think that they are a panacea to solve all problems associated with drinking. However, I will stand my ground: the book is about smoke and mirrors. It attempts to portray alcohol control policies and its advocates as single-minded interventionists, armed with ‘off-the-shelf’ measures. This is a false portrayal. It also attempts to draw attention away from some of the most effective measures to prevent problems (e.g. taxation, hours of sale), which are disliked by the industry because they may lead to a decrease in per-capita alcohol consumption.

I also disagree with Robson's idea that unethical practices by the alcohol industry are ‘quite a separate issue’. They are not. Consideration of these practices is central in shaping the relationship between health professionals and the industry. These practices colour the lenses through which the industry and its attempts at scientific discussion must be assessed. Yes, readers ‘deserve better than this’. Readers everywhere deserve scientific discussions as well as advice about alcohol policy that are free of the conflict of interest inherent among those supported by the industry. The evidence shows that such conflicts influence science [4,5], and that their disclosure is not enough to avoid the bias they create [4].

Finally, my editorial is no speculation. My rebuttal of the book's suggestions on how to respond to underage drinking, fetal alcohol syndrome and drinking and driving are based on a sound body of scientific evidence. In fact, I hope that it was exactly my use of the existing evidence that led Robson to see the good points in my editorial.


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