This study shows that at a key formative moment the major alcohol companies took advantage of the intellectual inheritance provided by tobacco companies in the form of ARISE to support their emerging global political strategy in ICAP. Alcohol companies were direct sponsors of ARISE.


Andrew Bartlett (E-mail:, Jack Garry, Jim McCambridge


Bartlett, A, Garry, J, McCambridge, J. From the tobacco industry's uses of science for public relations purposes to the alcohol industry: Tobacco industry documents study. Drug Alcohol Rev. 2023.

Drug and Alcohol Review
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From the tobacco industry’s uses of science for public relations purposes to the alcohol industry: Tobacco industry documents study

Original research



Associates for Research in Substances of Enjoyment (ARISE) was formed by tobacco companies in the late 1980s designed to counter public health policy development. This study examines the alcohol content of ARISE and the contribution of ARISE to alcohol industry activities in a key period in the globalisation of the alcohol industry, generating insights into the inter-relationships between the tobacco and alcohol industries in their involvements in policy-oriented science.


The researchers systematically searched the UCSF Truth Tobacco Documents Library for information about ARISE, alcohol and the alcohol industry. This material was supplemented with an analysis of the contributions by ARISE associates to one volume in the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) book series on alcohol and pleasure.


ARISE placed nicotine alongside caffeine, chocolate and other foods, and alcohol as treats which brought pleasure and other benefits. Alcohol was thus intrinsic to the ARISE project for the tobacco industry.

This study shows that at a formative moment in the mid-1990s the major alcohol companies took advantage of the intellectual inheritance and personnel provided by the tobacco industry when establishing ICAP.

Key to this was an ICAP conference that resulted in “Alcohol and pleasure: A health perspective” (1999).

Discussion and Conclusions

Not only did ARISE use alcohol to play a supporting role in a sophisticated tobacco industry strategy, the alcohol industry engaged with ARISE as part of its own strategy.

This shows the importance of careful attention to corporate activities on the fringes of peer-reviewed science.

Larger context: the interlinkages of Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco

There have been plenty of reasons for concern about the nature of alcohol industry involvement in science. Nevertheless, little substantive formal research has been conducted. This has begun to change recently as the scale of the alcohol industry involvement in science has become more apparent. Related strands of work have directly examined alcohol industry scientific interventions within and outside peer-reviewed journals. Attention has been given to scientific topics of interest to industry actors, such as the putative cardiovascular benefits of low dose alcohol consumption and alcohol and violence.

The Master Settlement Agreement in the US mandated the release of some industry documents. This has allowed the development of an in-depth understanding of the internal workings of the tobacco industry. For example, management of the science which showed their products to be harmful was foundational to the tobacco companies’ long-term public relations (PR) strategy, initially led by the PR firm Hill and Knowlton from the early 1950s onwards.

The Master Settlement release of documents has also shed some light on the alcohol industry. Work based on the tobacco industry documents archive has identified long-term PR programs by the alcohol industry to influence science. These were originally co-designed with PR company Hill and Knowlton, who had worked with the US distilled spirits industry before working with tobacco companies. Alcohol and tobacco industry interactions in PR strategy development later involved key personnel moving between sectors.

The basic features of this alcohol PR approach appear highly stable over many decades, perhaps because it was both undetected—or at least uncontroversial—and successful in securing its goals. In the guise of the pursuit of the public good, the interests of the alcohol industry have been secured by the creation of an international network of national level ‘social aspects’ organisations, beginning with the Portman Group in Britain. The global-level counterpart was the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP). Such organisations appear to be a key component of wider alcohol industry political strategies.

The tobacco industry documents archive has also revealed the control Philip Morris exercised over the wholly owned Miller Brewing Company, and the ways in which this facilitated influence in the US brewing trade associations and in the formation of ICAP.

Studies have shown that tobacco companies targeted different sectors in building their constituencies and that a division of labour was agreed between tobacco and alcohol industry organisations in opposing excise tax increases in the US, with the alcohol industry not simply operating as a subordinate of the tobacco industry.

What is ARISE?

The 1988 US Surgeon General report concluded that nicotine was addictive. Thus addiction became a key scientific issue for the tobacco industry, prompting multiple companies to establish Associates for Research in Substances of Enjoyment (ARISE).

ARISE was a network of scientists led by David Warburton, a tobacco-funded psychologist who viewed nicotine as non-addictive and performance enhancing. ARISE held international events biennially: Florence 1989 (predating the naming of the group as ARISE in 1990); Venice 1991; Brussels 1993; Amsterdam 1995; Rome 1997; and Kyoto 1999. Three edited collections with chapters based on these conferences were published: Addiction Controversies in 1990 (from Florence 1989); Pleasure: The Politics and the Reality in 1994 (from Venice 1991); and Pleasure and the Quality of Life in 1996 (from Brussels 1993). All three were edited by Warburton, the final book in partnership with Neil Sherwood. The books were ostensibly aimed at scientific audiences and in 1994, at the behest of a tobacco company, the word ‘substance’ was dropped from the ARISE acronym in favour of ‘science’.

Tobacco companies were involved in the organisation and funding of the events and the associated international PR strategy was co-ordinated by PR company Fishburn Hedges from London.

What is ICAP?

The International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP) as an attempt by major alcohol companies to counter the World Health Organization. ICAP was formed in 1995 in the early days of the transformation of the global alcohol industry. ICAP recruited Marcus Grant from the World Health Organization to lead the organisation, and its activities raised concern within the scientific community.

ICAP was nonetheless successful in recruiting scientists to work with it. The breadth of the public-facing activities of ICAP have been analyzed. But there is little secure in depth understanding of its formative influences, other than on the involvement of Philip Morris.

Both Landman et al. [17] and Smith [19] have investigated ARISE in depth, with tobacco industry management of their activities a principal object of study.

This original research extends what is known about alcohol industry involvement in science, using the UCSF tobacco industry documents archive as the primary data source.

The key questions of this article are:

  • in which ways were the alcohol industry and alcohol as a commodity involved in the ARISE project; and
  • how did such involvements contribute to the development of alcohol industry political and scientific strategies?

The roles of alcohol in the evolution of ARISE

ARISE owes its conception to the conference in Florence in 1989 on ‘Comparative Substance Use’. From the beginning, alcohol was on the agenda, as the minutes of the 1990 meeting in Zurich—at which the name of the organisation was agreed—make clear. A distinction was made between “legal, enjoyed substances”—for which they used the German word ‘Genussmittel’, translated as ‘treats’—and ‘socially unacceptable substances’.

ARISE was to function as a counter to public health narratives with a focus on harm by developing a narrative of the pleasure of consumption. The ARISE acronym was justified as it ‘epitomises our feeling that there should be some resurgence against the Calvinistic attack on people obtaining pleasure from substances and on their freedom of choice to do so’.

The tobacco industry origins of ARISE are well established. A 1994 presentation explicitly described it as an industry response to the US Surgeon General’s claim that ‘nicotine was as addictive as heroin or cocaine’, and that ‘a group of academics was identified and called together to’ ‘review the science of substance abuse’. This presentation also listed Guinness and Miller as ‘past or present supporters’, alongside Nestle, Kraft, the European Advertising Agencies Association and Coca Cola.

ARISE was explicit as to whom it was opposed:

  • a 1991 press release described ARISE as facing off against ‘Health Lobbyists’ who attack all the pleasurable substances, while at the same time insisting that ARISE is ‘in no sense a lobby group’.
  • According to the press release, evidence of ‘the flimsiest kind’ attributing harm to pleasurable substances is accepted because it ‘conforms with one’s moral righteousness’, while evidence of benefits is ‘suppressed, turned upside down, ridiculed and dismissed’.
  • Framing public health science in this manner provides a scientific and political rationale for ARISE.

The ARISE narrative was not just that consumption of pleasurable substances brought benefits, but that there were psychological and psychosomatic burdens resulting from viewing such ‘treats’—including ‘moderate’ alcohol use—as harmful.

Alcohol, and public health attention to its consumption, was thus an integral component of the ARISE project.

The fundamental importance of PR to the project is laid bare in the overseas agency brief prepared by Fishburn Hedges in 1994, where the ARISE objectives are stated as

  1. ‘to establish ARISE as a recognised, credible and permanent international network of scientists, academics, journalists and supporters’.
  2. Brewers are identified among the supporters.
  3. In 1994/95 they aspire; ‘to conduct a more organised and proactive campaign to ensure its views are heard and recognised by international opinion formers’.

It is important to note the opinion formers in question were not scientists. The thrust of ARISE was not a genuine attempt to engage in the constitutive forum of science, but to change the opinions of journalists, the public and policy makers about science.

  • For example, ARISE produced survey data for press releases rather than peer-reviewed reports, while surveillance of media impact was a key measure by which the success of ARISE was reported.

Alcohol as a substance had always been part of ARISE’s remit, though the focus on particular products and segments of the industry changed over time. While distilled spirits were part of the ARISE narrative at the time of the Venice conference and the alcohol industry was listed as one of the sponsors of the event, later meetings narrowed the focus to beer and wine, with only brewers identified as funders.

By 1994 Guinness and Miller were listed among the past or present supporters of ARISE, and both were key to the emergence of global alcohol industry political strategies. ARISE output was used directly by the industry; for example, there is much ARISE content in the Guinness magazine ‘Perspectives’ on alcohol science and policy from 1990/91, which foreshadows later ICAP content.

Alcohol industry involvement in ARISE provided a resource that could potentially be called upon during the formative years of globalising alcohol industry strategies, including by ICAP.

How ARISE affected alcohol science

Much ARISE work on alcohol was produced by Geoff Lowe, a UK psychologist. Lowe was known to the tobacco industry.

His work included attention to the effects of tobacco and alcohol when combined and ranged from experimental studies to qualitative analyses of the use of pleasurable substances, including alcohol, in the Mass Observation study.

He explored a range of standard ARISE and tobacco industry themes including stress relief, a subject of longstanding tobacco funding, and creativity (relating to both alcohol and tobacco).

That Lowe’s ARISE-linked scientific work on alcohol was largely not published in peer-reviewed journals was in keeping with the ARISE strategy; ‘science’ and ‘expertise’ mattered to ARISE not because it was a contribution to ongoing debates in scientific fora, but because having alcohol content authored by an academic legitimated the ARISE PR narrative.

That Lowe, along with other key players in ARISE, was able to transition to working with ICAP may be the most significant proximal aspect of ARISE’s contribution to alcohol industry involvement in science, more so than the modest alcohol content of ARISE itself. The transmission of expertise in recruiting scientists into networks managed (directly or indirectly) by industry is a more distal, though important, legacy of the tobacco industry’s decades of involvement in science to organisation of alcohol industry scientific programs.

ARISE, ICAP and ‘Alcohol and pleasure’

In 1998, ICAP began publishing the ‘International Center for Alcohol Policies Series on Alcohol and Society’ through Routledge. In format, they were much like the ARISE books. There were also important differences, with many chapters written by prominent academics working on various aspects of alcohol science, alongside contributions produced by, or in collaboration with, alcohol industry employees and/or the staff of industry-funded social aspects.

Early in the ICAP book series, but late in the life of ARISE, ICAP published “Alcohol and pleasure”, a book with a substantial ARISE contribution.

The book series was developed shortly after the 1995 ARISE workshop ‘Living is More Than Surviving’. At that workshop, it was claimed that:

The New Puritanism has become the ideology of the late 20th century and has replaced more traditional ways of thinking about individuals, their relations to each other, society and, most particularly, pleasure.”

1995 ARISE workshop

This framing is a further development of the earlier themes of ARISE, and is echoed, at least in parts, by many chapters of “Alcohol and pleasure”.

Tobacco industry affiliates present chapters in the book and recycle generic ARISE themes. They incorporate a brief discussion on alcohol and mood and otherwise set the scene by presenting the ARISE basic perspective. They introduce the idea of ‘pleasure inoculation’, that pleasure can be constitutive of good health as improved mood leads to improved immune response.

One chapter offers a purported history of pleasure. It features the alleged constraints of Christianity, the intents of the World Health Organization, fundamental problems in health promotion and the tyranny of science, and positions public health initiatives as part of ‘a radical assault on what it means to be a free person in a democratic society’. Luik undermines the scientific legitimacy of public health research, while presenting organisations such as ARISE and ICAP as, in contrast, taking up the duty of providing the public with ‘rigorously objective scientific information’.

Other book chapters include arguments seen in other alcohol industry initiatives, notably throughout the ICAP book series, that alcohol use is a skilled activity that needs to be correctly learned to optimise pleasure.

For the alcohol industry-affiliated author, “skilled drinking” is about people learning ‘to develop their consumption so that they develop a repertoire of drinking and ingestion styles to be used on different occasions and for different purposes in different contexts’. ‘As with many other skilled behaviours—sports, cooking, musical skills and so on—the more skilled the practitioner, the higher the degree of pleasure and enjoyment.

Snel is a surprising inclusion and arguably the content of the chapter somewhat more surprising still. Snel spent his career at the University of Amsterdam working mainly on caffeine (among the list of past and present ARISE ‘supporters’ in 1994 was the Coffee Science Information Center), the subject of his ARISE presentations in 1995 and 1997. Snel had no track record of alcohol research. The chapter emphasises the functional value, as well as the pleasure, to be gained by consuming alcohol “responsibly”, and also critiques the alcohol research literature; in that being focused on problems and alcoholism the literature is biased to see alcohol only in terms of harms. He wrote:

‘The preponderance of alcohol research creates the impression that alcohol is a substance that has only harmful effects on people’s health and cognition, and that drinking must lead eventually to addiction. Thus, if people accepted the opinions of many health scientists, they would decide that alcohol is a poison that should be banned’. [p. 278],

and yet,

Both pleasure and moderate use have been proven to be healthy.”

This constitutes a version of the basic ARISE anti-public health narrative, as applied to alcohol and alcohol research. To some extent Snel goes even further, suggesting that alcohol is part of an ‘optimising lifestyle’, writing that:

research on the effects of alcohol on cognitive functioning and stress reduction indicates that alcohol is a functional, useful component of lifestyle. Moreover, the pleasure derived from responsible drinking is an important means to achieve an optimum state”.

The direct link between ARISE and ICAP was established towards the end of ARISE’s existence and in the early years of ICAP.

As far as the alcohol industry was concerned the ICAP book series (the 10 book series which ran from 1998 to 2010), to which ARISE made a significant if fleeting contribution, represented a determined and sustained attempt to shape the scientific discourse around alcohol—an open and explicit attempt to shift the paradigm—which continued until the final book in 2010. While ARISE is now long defunct, ICAP merged with the Global Alcohol Producers Group in 2014, and shortly after was rebranded as the still existing International Alliance for Responsible Drinking.


This study shows that at a key formative moment the major alcohol companies took advantage of the intellectual inheritance provided by tobacco companies in the form of ARISE to support their emerging global political strategy in ICAP. Alcohol companies were direct sponsors of ARISE.

ICAP might have sought to promote other benefits of alcohol, and around that time alcohol companies were investing in the funding of cardiovascular research apparently showing physiological benefits, yet ICAP chose to do a book on pleasure. This complemented existing work that was explicitly intended to shift the paradigm away from whole-population studies of harm to research of ‘drinking patterns’, including ‘healthful’ alcohol use.

The connections between the alcohol and tobacco industries in both PR and attempts to influence and shape science for that purpose run well beyond ARISE.

  • For example, the Philip Morris-funded projects Sunrise and Cosmic included alcohol alongside other substance use, and these pre-dated ARISE and ran alongside it.
  • There were also other key figures such as the Yale historian David Musto, who provided Philip Morris with projects they paid for specifically on alcohol.

Although ARISE was one venture in the longer history of tobacco industry corruption of science, the operating model of drawing in other related sectors, also contained within it the possibility that alcohol or food for example could at key moments draw on the arguments and personnel mobilised by ARISE and the tobacco companies as a resource.

Companies such as Philip Morris, which owned both Kraft and Miller Brewing, provided a complementary and more direct means of transmission of key ideas and personnel. This is what appears to have been done in the case of the link between ICAP and ARISE, though it should be noted that ICAP and its sponsors ultimately went in a different direction from the ARISE project, engaging in a much more serious attempt to influence the content of science, as indeed the tobacco industry had done for decades.

The alcohol industry was not content to restrict the role of ICAP to that of a PR device, but drew on the longer tobacco industry experience of shaping science. ICAP was formed at a moment of scientific opportunity in the mid-1990s, when attention to alcohol use patterns and harm reduction ideas were influential.

The tobacco and alcohol industries continue to collaborate to the present day in influencing science, and how scientific evidence is used in policymaking.

There may be enduring lessons in the way both the tobacco and alcohol industries cultivated scientists from domains beyond biomedicine, with the recruitment of psychologists and other social scientists into both ARISE and ICAP scientific programs. The value of comparative substance use projects, and crossovers with gambling, indicates that the corporate sectors which produce addictive products operate with sophisticated high-level approaches to their own businesses that include managing the addiction scientific field, which is still largely working in silos.

ICAP appears to have continued to work effectively for the major alcohol companies, delaying the introduction of alcohol policies across the world, in similar ways to those pioneered by the tobacco companies, after the demise of ARISE.

In so doing, ICAP created a range of books, reports, documents and other artefacts that provide a basis for careful study, until its demise at the end of 2013, interestingly, following Jernigan’s dissection of the activities of ICAP the previous year.

The successor organisation, the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking has operated differently and has managed to almost entirely avoid attracting critical scientific attention.

Source Website: Wiley Online Library