Alcohol policy calls for drink industry partners

I was disappointed to read the article referring to the Portman Group (MW October 6). There were inaccuracies. Neither I nor any of my colleagues was contacted by Sonoo Singh to establish any facts prior to publication. Please allow me to correct a few of the main inaccuracies here.

The Government’s National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England clearly recognised that the best way to tackle alcohol harm and its causes is through a partnership between its own departments, local authorities, the police, industry stakeholders and the public. To claim that the Government is simply going to hand its policy over to any one group is plain wrong.

The strategy proposed that drinks producers should make a voluntary donation to an independent fund, to be administered by the Home Office, which would provide information and education and be used to fund community and national projects designed to tackle alcohol-related harm.

More recently, the Department of Health’s White Paper, Choosing Health, signalled a wish by the Government to work in partnership with the drinks industry and the Portman Group to develop public education campaigns, in particular targeting young adults to reduce binge drinking.

The Portman Group has been recognised for its award-winning public education campaigns and its ⢠leadership in helping to raise awareness of problem drinking.

However, we believe that both these cross-departmental objectives would be most effectively implemented through building on the existing charity, the Drinkaware Trust, which could be restructured to be entirely separate from the Portman Group and independently governed. With core funding from the drinks industry, Drinkaware could deliver a wide range of alcohol education activities, including campaigns and project aid.

We are currently in discussion with the Government to see whether it would welcome and support this initiative as the basis not for contracting out alcohol policy but for working in partnership with the industry to tackle misuse.

Jean Coussins

Chief executive

The Portman Group

London W1

Every effort had been made to contact the Portman Group before publication. It declined to return the calls – Ed

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