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Alcohol industry hits back at criticism of responsible drinking campaigns

Published:  12 October, 2011

The alcohol industry has hit back at claims from Alcohol Concern that responsible drinking campaigns are ineffectual and possibly counterproductive.

The alcohol industry has hit back at claims from Alcohol Concern that responsible drinking campaigns are ineffectual and possibly counterproductive.

Alcohol Concern also criticised the government for taking policy advice from drinks firms about creating policies around alcohol promotion and health.

A report from the charity, written by researchers from Glynd?r and Bangor Universities, accused industry health messages of being ambiguous and lacking clarity over safe behaviour when drinking. Researchers also stated that health messages in adverts generally promote drinking as a positive lifestyle choice.

The report's authors found that instead of spending money on responsible drinking campaigns, the methods most likely to be effective were making alcohol more expensive and less easily.

Glynd?r University professor of mental health, Rob Poole, said: "There are some consistent key findings from modern international research on reducing the harm caused by alcohol. In particular, the most effective measures are increasing price and reducing availability. There is really no convincing evidence that responsible drinking campaigns have any positive impact at all.

"The alcohol industry's conflict of interest is so marked that a number of independent health bodies, including the World Health Organisation, take the view that the industry should have no role in policy formation or health promotion with respect to alcohol."

Alcohol Concern's chief executive, Don Shenker said: "Rather than taking advice from the drinks industry, this government must start listening to the international evidence on what works to reduce the rising alcohol harms we face as a nation."

But the WSTA's communications director Gavin Partington said evidence from Drinkaware's industry-funded campaign shows it already having an impact on influencing people when it comes to drinking more responsibly, thereby contradicting the report from Alchohol Concern.

He also rejected the remarks that the drinks industry is involved in creating alcohol policy - saying it does not create policy. "The government does that - we are there to offer our view on how it may be implemented," he said. He added that the drinks industry's powerful marketing background helped beef up the responsible drinking message and bring the message out to the wider 18-24 year old audience."That's precisely why campaigns like Why let good times go bad? are so effective," he said.

In additions Shenker added: "There is a valid place for authoritative government health warnings and we should see more of these, but relying on 'nudge' campaigns led by the drinks industry which send mixed messages could be counter-productive.

But the WSTA's Partington said these findings conflicted with recent research in Canada, being examined by the UK's Department of Health, which showed that brief interventions or "nudges" were effective.

The drinks industry is currently in its third year of the £100 million Why Let Good Times go Bad? campaign which advises on smarter drinking with tips such as: eating a meal before drinking, pacing alcoholic drinks with soft drinks and looking after friends. Recent statistics from the 2010 campaign showed that 77% of young adults questioned said they had adopted one of the campaign tips.