Explaining trends in addictive behaviour policy: The role of policy coherence


This article analyses addictive behaviour policy regimes-focusing on illegal drugs and gambling-in 19 countries over a period of 50 years. It compares how these countries have combined rules on the consumption and possession of cannabis and on the participation in sports betting with sanctions for violations of these rules. While theories of policy convergence can explain dominant trends in the way the combination of these policy instruments have changed, they cannot account for all of the empirical variation observed. Turning to Portugal, a case which deviates in both illegal drug and gambling policy from the expected trend, we show that explanations of policy change improve substantially when taking the concept of policy coherence into account. Specifically, we argue that changes of the policy status quo are facilitated when policy entrepreneurs succeed in shaping a perception of policy incoherence. In turn, when relevant actors are able to maintain a perception of policy coherence, the policy status quo is stabilized.

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