Industry bete noir threatens to quit Public Health England

Anti-alcohol lobbyist in chief Prof Ian Gimore has threatened to quit his role as an adviser to Public Health England in protest of its partnership with Drinkaware.

Gilmore said PHE should not have launched a joint campaign with the drinks industry-funded charity in a bid to encourage middle-aged drinkers to more days off from drinking.

He said that he and colleague John Britton are “considering their positions” unless it “terminates” the partnership with Drinkaware.

He wrote to The Times: “It demonstrates a failure at senior level in Public Health England to learn the lessons from the use by the tobacco and alcohol industries of voluntary agreements and other partnerships with health bodies to undermine, water down or otherwise neutralise policies to reduce consumption.

“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.”

Selbie was unwavering. “We think our advice on drink-free days is easily understandable, pragmatic and sensible,” he said. “PHE is steadfast in its ambition to reduce the harms that drinking too much alcohol can cause and we will work together with any partner that speaks to the evidence and shares the same commitment.”

Sir Leigh Lewis, the chair of the Drinkaware Trust, added: “Drinkaware is an independent charity, which is not part of, and does not speak on behalf of, the alcohol industry.

“It is saddening to see that widely refuted false allegations about our independence are being used to undermine serious and genuine attempts to help people moderate their drinking and improve knowledge about the long-term health risks.”

Former England and Liverpool footballer John Barnes is supporting the campaign, which will provides people with a range of tools and resources to help them cut back and make better choices about their drinking.  John said:

“This is an important campaign highlighting how many of us don’t realise that we are drinking in ways that could be harming our health and how we are struggling to moderate," he said.

“A beer here and a glass of wine there might not seem like much but the units can add up and so too can the health risks.

“Having a few more days a week that are drink free is a great way of taking control of our drinking and making healthier choices for the future which is why I am supporting this fantastic campaign.”

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