‘Nothing can be done until everything is done’: the use of complexity arguments by food, beverage, alcohol and gambling industries

Corporations use a range of strategies to dispute their role in causing public health harms and to limit the scope of effective public health interventions.  This study analyzed alcohol, food, soda and gambling industry documents and websites and minutes of reports of relevant health select committees, using standard document analysis methods.  Two main framings were identified: (i) these industries argue that aetiology is complex, so individual products cannot be blamed; and (ii) they argue that population health measures are ‘too simple’ to address complex public health problems. However, in this second framing, there are inherent contradictions in how industry used ‘complexity’, as their alternative solutions are generally not, in themselves, complex.  Corporate arguments and language may reflect the existence of a cross-industry ‘playbook’, whose use results in the undermining of effective public health policies – in particular the undermining of effective regulation of profitable industry activities that are harmful to the public’s health.

Petticrew M, Katikireddi SV, Knai C, Cassidy R, Maani Hessari N, Thomas J, Weishaar H. ‘Nothing can be done until everything is done’: the use of complexity arguments by food, beverage, alcohol and gambling industries. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017;71(11):1078-1083.

Diageo’s ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ Campaign in Ireland: An Analysis

It has been argued that the alcohol industry uses corporate social responsibility activities to influence policy and undermine public health, and that every opportunity should be taken to scrutinise such activities. This study analyses a ‘responsible drinking’ campaign (“Stop out of Control Drinking”, or SOOCD) sponsored in Ireland by Diageo, one of the world’s largest alcohol companies. The study aims to identify how the campaign and its advisory board members frame and define (i) alcohol-related harms, and their causes, and (ii) possible solutions. The authors conclude that The ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ campaign frames alcohol problems and solutions in ways unfavourable to public health, and closely reflects other Diageo Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity, as well as alcohol and tobacco industry strategies more generally. This framing, and in particular the framing of alcohol harms as a behavioural issue, with the implication that consumption should be guided only by self-defined limits, may not have been recognised by all board members. It suggests a need for awareness-raising efforts among the public, third sector and policymakers about alcohol industry strategies.

Citation: Petticrew M, Fitzgerald N, Durand MA, Knai C, Davoren M, Perry I (2016) Diageo’s ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ Campaign in Ireland: An Analysis. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0160379. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160379