Intended for healthcare professionals


Public Health England’s capture by the alcohol industry

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 19 September 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3928


Public health experts split over deal with industry funded charity


Calling time on dumbing down our drinking culture

  1. Ian Gilmore, professor of medicine1,
  2. Linda Bauld, professor of health policy2,
  3. John Britton, professor of epidemiology3
  1. 1University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
  3. 3University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to: J Britton j.britton{at}

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it

As in many rich countries, public health in the United Kingdom is blighted by harms caused by consumption of unhealthy commodities such as tobacco, alcohol, and foods high in fat, sugar, or salt.1 In England, responsibility for tackling these problems lies with Public Health England (PHE), an executive branch of the Department for Health and Social Care.2

It is a challenging task: consumption of these commodities is driven by powerful transnational companies3 with a history of cooperation in opposing health legislation and adopting similar tactics to influence and restrict controls on their market environments.4 The launch on 10 September of a health promotion partnership5 between PHE and Drinkaware, an organisation that is funded by the alcohol industry, indicates that PHE is struggling to rise to the challenge.

Commercial companies survive by profiting from the things they produce, and for those producing tobacco, alcohol, or unhealthy foods, that profit motive inevitably runs counter to health. These industries have adopted common and successful strategies to prevent, undermine, dilute, or constrain measures designed to curtail their activities. Their …

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