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Simon Harris has asked media outlets not to use information from Drinkaware.
Simon Harris has asked media outlets not to use information from Drinkaware.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Health minister asks media outlets not to use Drinkaware information

Drinkaware is funded by the drinks industry and Harris asked media organisations to use HSE information.
Dec 27th 2019, 6:45 AM 40,963 26

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has written to Irish media outlets asking them not to use Drinkaware information. 

Drinkaware, an initiative that promotes safe drinking, is funded by major drinks brands including Diageo and Heineken. 

Instead of using Drinkaware.ie information, Harris points organisation to the facts and data provided by the HSE. 

The HSE’s website askaboutalchohol.ie was launched in March 2017 with the aim of providing a dedicated platform for guidance, information and advice about the dangers of alcohol. 

“It has come to my attention that some media and other organisations are providing the public with information from the alcohol-industry funded initiative Drinkaware,” Harris writes.

“I am writing to ask to you to consider using the HSE’s askaboutalcohol.ie information
resource for the public when providing information about alcohol and to do so instead of
using alcohol-industry funded resources,” he continues. 

Harris warns that alcohol consumption remains high in Ireland compared to the rest of the world. 

The health minister has previously been critical of the involvement of the drinks industry in alcohol information programmes. 

He writes that it is important “especially in an era where misinformation and disinformation are challenges for our society, that the public can access evidence-based information from sources they can trust, and where there is optimal clarity and transparency about both the information provided and the source providing”.

“We are all aware of critical health issues where this is an ongoing challenge, for example in relation to vaccinations,” Harris adds. 

The media in Ireland has a track record, underpinned by principles of good journalism, of supporting the public by providing information, creating awareness and supporting greater knowledge and understanding to help empower people around their own health and wellbeing. In this context I hope that you will re-consider using alcohol-industry funded source of information

Helpline

The government also announced that it is considering creating a helpline for people suffering from addiction. 

Harris, alongside minister Catherine Byrne – who is responsible for the government’s national drug strategy – has asked the HSE to examine the possibility of establishing a helpline similar to the FRANK service found in the UK. 

The helpline would aim to provide information to children and teenagers, as well as offering guidance and support to families.

In Ireland, cannabis and cocaine are some of the most commonly used drugs. Recent years have seen concerns that problem cocaine use is increasing

“I strongly believe this helpline could offer people an avenue of support. I also strongly believe that people who are in recovery should be at the other end of the line too. Nobody can speak to this better than those who have experienced it,” Harris said. 

“Obviously this has to be matched by professionals but few people understand the scourge of addiction better than those who experience it,” he added. 

On Tuesday, planning permission was granted for Ireland’s first supervised injecting facility in Dublin city centre after three years of back-and-forth discussions between Dublin City Council and Merchants Quay Ireland. 

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Dominic McGrath

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