Drinkaware is a “charity” organization set up by the Portman Group which is a social aspects and public relations body for the alcohol industry. Drinkaware recently, relaunched their alcohol tracking app. During the relaunch past alcohol use data which helps people to keep their alcohol use in check was wiped. The app has received many complaints for this loss of data as well as removing of key functions such as cost of alcohol use.
This is not the first time Drinkaware has come under intense criticism for its unethical conduct. The case adds to the ongoing problem of alcohol industry funded CSR bodies which serve as a mechanism for the alcohol industry to influence alcohol policies in their favor.

Drinkaware runs a smartphone app which can be used by people to track their alcohol consumption. The app was launched in 2014 and has over 600,000 downloads.

On August 30, this app was updated an relaunched. Since the launch users have complained their alcohol use history has been wiped out. The primary function of the app is to track alcohol use and without the history many users have deemed the app useless.

[The app’s] totally unusable and I’ve given up recording my alcohol consumption on it,” said an app user, David Eckhoff, 59, a public relations executive and author of the novel The Royal Factor, as per the Guardian.

I lost all my data. If they are serious about helping people with alcohol consumption, this is a complete dereliction of duty.”

David Eckhoff, 59, public relations executive and author

Along with wiping the history of alcohol use, Drinkaware also deleted one of they key functions from the app which estimated the financial cost of alcohol use.

Several users have said they are ditching the app because this function is no longer available and because it no longer provided a monthly comparison of alcohol intake or carried warnings on previous high-risk consumption of more than 50 units a week.

Since the relaunch, the app has had over 100 bad reviews on Apple’s App Store. According to Drinkaware they received over 540 complaints from regular users of the app. Drinkaware has said they have not permanently wiped any data and that they are restoring the data for users who get in touch with them.

Instead of the Drinkaware app the independent charity Alcohol Change UK offers the free Try Dry app which helps users to stay sober.

What is Drinkaware?

In 2006, Drinkaware was established as a charity in the UK following a memorandum of understanding between the Portman Group and various UK government agencies.

Drinkaware was devised by the Portman Group to serve alcohol industry interests. It runs on direct funding from the alcohol industry. Last year, Drinkaware received “donations” of £5.5m from alcohol producers, retailers and sports bodies.

British alcohol policy-making, both long-standing and recent, is heavily influenced by the alcohol industry. Drinkaware is one mechanism of interference.

Working with, and for, industry bodies such as Drinkaware helps disguise fundamental conflicts of interest and serves only to legitimize corporate efforts to promote partnership as a means of averting evidence-based alcohol policies, said McCambridge and colleagues (2013), in their paper “Be aware of Drinkaware” as per Wiley Online Library.

McCambridge and colleagues (2013)

For instance, in 2018, Sir Ian Gilmore, one of the country’s most respected experts on the effects of alcohol, resigned from an advisory role at Public Health England in protest of a partnership with Drinkaware and its direct link to the alcohol industry.

Drinkaware doing more harm than good: An example

In 2014, researchers at the London South Bank University (LSBU) exposed a major flaw in Drinkaware’s national ‘Why let good times go bad?’ campaign.

The campaign was supposed to reduce binge alcohol use among 18 to 24 year olds with a so called “responsible” use theme. The research team studied alcohol users in lab-based bar settings and experimental laboratories designed to mimic a bar environment.

They found that the campaign was doing the opposite of what it claimed. Those who saw the “responsibility” messaging consumed more alcohol and had a higher chance of considering heavy use than those who were exposed to positive health messages instead.

The research proved that “responsible” alcohol use messaging does not help and causes more damage.

The five year multi million pound national campaign was cut off at four years, upon this evidence. But the harm that was done during the years it ran can not be reversed.


The Guardian: “Alcohol monitor app slammed for wiping users’ drinks tally

Wiley Online Library: “Be aware of Drinkaware

LSBU: “Researchers unearth the flaw of major Drinkaware Trust Campaign”