Katherine Severi & Benjamin Hawkins; International Journal of Health Policy and Management; January 2024

Background: Alcohol industry organisations occupy a prominent position in UK alcohol policy, but their involvement has been contested by public health bodies on the basis that a conflict of interest (COI) exists between their economic objectives and those of public health. There are ongoing debates in the research literature about how to conceptualise COI and mitigate this in health research and practise. However, less attention has been paid to these issues in relation to the alcohol industry specifically. This article explores similarities and differences in beliefs among alcohol policy actors regarding COI and the implications of engagement with the alcohol industry in the context of UK public health policy.


Semi-structured interviews with a range of policy actors (n=26) including medical professionals,
parliamentarians, civil servants, academic researchers, health campaigners, and alcohol industry representatives. Interviews with alcohol industry representatives were supplemented with an analysis of industry responses to a public consultation. All data was thematically coded using NVivo software.
Results: Two competing “coalitions” were identified, expressing beliefs about COI linked to alcohol industry engagement. Both divergent and convergent beliefs were expressed by the two coalitions in relation to the type of industry actor, form of engagement, the policy issue under discussion and the stage of policy process.


Alcohol policy is a complex and contested space in which policy actors have differing, nuanced and
contingent understandings of COI and identify varying risks associated with alcohol industry engagement. In identifying the areas of convergence and diversion in both understanding and evaluation of COI in alcohol-specific settings, these findings will assist both decision-makers and non-governmental actors in developing policies and guidelines to manage potential COI in future. Keywords: Alcohol Policy, Conflicts of Interest, Alcohol Industry 

Copyright: © 2024 The Author(s); Published by Kerman University of Medical Sciences. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Citation: Severi K, Hawkins B. Policy actors’ perceptions of conflicts of interest and alcohol industry engagement in UK policy processes.Int J Health Policy Manag. 2024;13:8068. doi:10.34172/ijhpm.2024.8068

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