A study analysing drinks company Diageo’s ‘Stop out of Control Drinking’ campaign in Ireland has found its promotion of “responsible drinking” is likely to be harmful to public health.
The campaign, launched by the Guinness-owner, in Ireland last year stated that it was designed to ‘change the country’s culture of drinking for the better’, and make out-of-control drinking ‘socially unacceptable’.
But new research published in journal PLOS ONE analysed newspaper articles, media interviews and social media activity relating to the campaign, and concluded it lacked independence from Diageo, and presented problems with alcohol, and policy solutions, that were unfavourable to public health. The scientists also found that the campaign used vague or self-defined concepts of ‘out of control’ and ‘moderate’ drinking, presenting alcohol harm as a behavioural problem rather than a health issue.
Professor Mark Petticrew, lead author, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The Diageo campaign was controversial from the start, not least because it was initiated and funded by an alcohol company.
“We were particularly concerned that the campaign emphasised the importance of public opinion about what might work, while placing little emphasis on the scientific evidence already available about solutions to alcoholrelated problems.
“For example, the campaign presented education as an effective way to ‘change our culture’, though the evidence clearly shows that this has little effect.”
Researchers also found that the campaign emphasised alcohol-related antisocial behaviour among young people, particularly young women, when it is known that alcohol harms are a wider health issue affecting men, women and children across the whole population, resulting in the deaths of three people in Ireland every day.
Dr Niamh Fitzgerald of the University of Stirling, added: “Diageo’s campaign generally failed to emphasise the policies known to be most effective such as marketing controls and minimum unit pricing, talking instead about culture change, psychological factors and parenting.
“The language used in the campaign appears to frame alcohol problems as the responsibility of individual drinkers rather than arising from the marketing of an addictive, carcinogenic product. This tactic has been previously used by the tobacco industry. We need to ensure that going forward the public, policymakers and the third sector can recognise these industry strategies.”
Critics previously suggested that the campaign sought to undermine Ireland’s latest Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, published around the same time in February 2015.
The Bill proposed to introduce a minimum price of alcohol and regulations to alcohol advertising and sponsorship and still has not been enacted