Friday 22 February 2019

Former tobacco lobby group hired by Diageo anti-alcohol campaign

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout
Senator Jillian Van Turnhout

Sam Griffin

The group opposed to the drinks industry-funded anti-alcohol campaign has raised concerns that a public relations group previously involved with the tobacco industry is now the secretariat for the campaign.

The 'Stop Out of Control Drinking' initiative, which has received €1m in funding from drinks firm Diageo, has confirmed it is using the services of UK-based lobby group Goddard Global.

The agency previously acted as secretariat for a group called the Common Sense Alliance which lobbied against European directives aimed at tackling the tobacco industry. The Alliance was funded by the British American Tobacco - one of the world's largest tobacco firms.

As secretariat for the new campaign, they execute the wishes of the board and help facilitate workshops.

The campaign website, www.rolemodels.ie, also appears under the registered domain name of Chris Dougan. This is the same name as a member of the company's four-person 'leadership team' who is also Goddard's global managing partner. Mr Dougan lists Diageo as one of his clients on his profile on the company website.

Goddard did not respond to queries from the Irish Independent last night.

A spokesman for the campaign defended the partnership with Goddard and said opponents of the campaign had adopted "a phenomenally negative approach" by judging it before the group had produced any reports.

"They (Goddard) don't represent the tobacco industry and have not represented the tobacco industry since their involvement in this campaign began," he said.

He added: "They were apparently involved in something for a period of time but they resigned from that themselves and prior to this campaign."

He said the campaign board was not aware of the company's previous involvement with the tobacco industry when they were approached and that a UK firm, instead of an Irish firm, was approached to give the initiative "a fresh approach" and so it was not linked with firms involved with the drinks industry here.

The campaign's links with the alcohol industry have been condemned by more than 50 individuals and groups who wrote an open letter to Diageo.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout last night said: "Goddard are not public health campaigners and shouldn't be involved in a such a campaign."

She added the campaign's 'out of control drinking' messaging takes "responsibility off individuals" and doesn't focus on issues like alcohol availability or pricing.

"It doesn't make us feel we have to examine our own drinking. It makes us think of anti- social behaviour," she said.

Irish Independent

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