Lewis Peake, May C.I. van Schalkwyk, Nason Maani & Mark Petticrew
European Journal of Public Health, 1–8; Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association
Background: The Alcohol Industry (AI), and the Social Aspects/Public Relations Organisations (SAPRO) it funds, has
been shown to mis-represent the risk of alcohol with respect to cancer and pregnancy. It is theorized that the AI
would position alcohol as ‘heart healthy’ to further undermine public perceptions of risks from drinking.
Methods: A comparative analysis (including content, thematic and context analyses) of cardiovascular health
information published on the websites of AI-funded (n ¼ 18, such as ‘Drinkaware’ and the ‘Distilled Spirits
Council of the US’) and non-AI-funded (n ¼ 18, such as ‘NHS.uk’) organizations based in multiple high-income
Results: Websites of non-industry-funded health organizations were more likely than AI/SAPRO
websites to label alcohol as a risk factor for a range of important cardiovascular diseases (such as myocardial
infarction, congestive cardiac failure, hypertension and stroke). Conversely, AI/SAPRO websites were more likely
to suggest alcohol was protective in the development of some heart conditions. AI/SAPRO websites frequently
referenced the J-shaped curve as proof of benefit from moderate alcohol consumption; suggested a balance
between the benefits and harms from drinking; positioned alcohol as consistent with a ‘healthy lifestyle’; and
framed drinking as a social norm.
Conclusions: AI-funded health organizations mis-represent the evidence on
cardiovascular effects of moderate alcohol consumption. Healthcare professionals should appreciate the role of
funding source in biasing content, and exercise caution when directing patients to content funded by the AI.
Tighter regulation of messaging that AI/SAPRO’s provide to the public is required, to avoid the dissemination of