Health

Public health adviser quits over new drink awareness campaign

Public health adviser quits over new drink awareness campaign

A leading adviser to the Government’s public health agency has left his role over a new drinking awareness campaign which involves the alcohol industry.

Public Health England (PHE) launched the Drink Free Days campaign this week alongside Drinkaware – a trust “funded largely by voluntary and unrestricted donations from UK alcohol producers, retailers and supermarkets”.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore and Professor John Britton, who are senior advisers to PHE on alcohol and tobacco said their roles have been “undermined”. Professor Gilmore is said to have left his role while Professor Britton will follow suit unless PHE change their course.

In a letter to the Times, the pair claimed that PHE had failed to learn lessons from the industry using voluntary agreements and other partnerships with health bodies to “undermine, water down or otherwise neutralise policies to reduce consumption”.

‘Bold step’

The Drink Free Days campaign is urging people to have two days off from alcohol a week, with PHE saying the partnership with Drinkaware “is a fresh and bold step in our work to reduce alcohol harm”.

But Sir Ian and Professor Britton said: “Given that responses to our submissions to PHE’s chief executive, Duncan Selbie, have confirmed that the lessons of history have not been learnt, we feel our respective roles as co-chairmen of the Alcohol Leadership and Tobacco Control Implementation Boards of PHE are undermined and must cause us to consider our positions if the partnership with Drinkaware is not terminated with immediate effect.”

Sir Leigh Lewis, chairman of the Drinkaware Trust, said the charity did not speak for the industry. He said: “It is saddening to see that false allegations about our independence are being used to undermine serious and genuine attempts to help people moderate their drinking.”

Mr Selbie defended the partnership at the opening the agency’s annual conference at the University of Warwick on Tuesday.

“We are talking specifically to the alcohol industry about four things: labelling, calorie reduction, widening the choice of low and no value alcohol and how we talk to the public about risk,” he said. “If we’re not annoying someone, we’re not doing our job.”