Marcus Grant

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Alcohol badge.jpg This article is part of the Spinwatch public health oriented Alcohol Portal project.

Marcus Grant is president of the International Centre For Alcohol Policies. Grant claims to have been the former director of a UK-based NGO, Alcohol Education Centre, which provided national coordination of post-qualification training on alcohol problems for health and social service staff.[1]. However the Alcohol Education Centre was based within Maudsley NHS Trust in London, and is therefore an NHS hospital rather than an NGO as is claimed on the ICAP web site.[2] The Alcohol Education Centre was part of the London Institute for Psychiatry and was one of four national bodies concerned with alcohol misuse in the UK, now replaced with Alcohol Concern and the Medical Council on Alcohol. Grant then worked for the World Health Organisation (WHO), where he was responsible for global activities on the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse. He resigned from WHO in 1994 to set up ICAP.[3].

Industry funded research

Marcus Grant and a colleague published a book in 1999 'Drinking Patterns and their Consequences'[4] in the view of one reviewer the writers involvement with the Alcohol industry undermines their findings and essentially makes different policy recommendations than other more 'independent' experts when considering the same evidence. [5]

The context of the publication of Grant's book is worth mentioning. Two previous publications 'Alcohol Control Policies in Public Health Perspective' (Bruun et al.,1975) [6] commonly known as the pink book, and 'Alcohol Policy and the Public Good' (Edwards et al., 1992) [7] both focused on the reduction of alcohol harm by limiting availability and increasing cost through taxation. These measures are quite clearly at odds with the alcohol industry and some governemtns as alcohol taxation is a major source of revenue and the alcohol industry is a huge employer and powerful player in industry.

The industry's response to the 1992 book was spearheaded by the Portman Group, an organisation funded entirely by the alcohol industry. Portman Group reportedly offered several British scientists a fee of £2000 to write anonymous critiques. Babor and colleagues (1996) subsequently described this type of activity in the following way: ‘When one begins to see scientists with industry connections being encouraged to attack independent researchers, industry supported commentators attacking publicly supported policy makers and commercial interests trying to set the research agenda, this is not only a cause for concern, but a recipe for disaster’. [8]

It is in this context that Drinking Patterns and Their Consequences was written. The book is co-edited by Marcus Grant who set up the USA-based International Centre For Alcohol Policies funded, like the Portman Group, entirely by the alcohol industry. Several of the other authors also have close links to the industry. The book focuses on undermining the control of alcohol at the population level and prefers an approach which targets only those who are engaged in problem drinking behaviour.

One review of Grant's work wonders why two groups of authors reviewing essentially the same literature on policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm reach diametrically opposite conclusions regarding the effectiveness of and need for population-level alcohol control measures. Others too have questioned the links with indusrty, "could it be an indication that financial support from the alcohol industry influences scientific debate in a way that protects its commercial interests? Should the alcohol industry be tarred with the same brush as the tobacco industry, and the "... tainted relationship between science and the tobacco industry, where trust seems to have virtually ‘disappeared’"? [9] Should the alcohol industry be consigned to ‘pariah status' as Edwards (1998) has suggested? The alcohol industry and scientists sponsored by it have competing interests in the interpretation of public health research evidence on alcohol." [10]

Personalise the problem

In 1998 a judge in Ohio, USA, passed a most unusual sentence to a persistent drink driver. The man was given a suspended jail sentence and and ordered to live within walking distance of a bar or shop which sold alcohol. The judge reasoned that the man, an alcoholic, was not going to stop drinking therefore "If he could be kept out of motor vechicles he could drink himself to death with impunity if that is his desire" The sentence was aimed at protecting the public from this man rather than trying to rehabilitate him. Some in the medical professio were concerned by the sentence and believe that alcoholism is a treatable condition, abstinence with suport and treatment being the cure. For them this sentence of letting a patient drink himself to death if he so wishes is on a par with letting a pneumonia go without antibiotics.

Grant, however, described the sentence as "ingenious" this type 'solution' based on individual problem drinkers rather than the whole community is exactly the type of solution Grant, and others within the alcohol industry advocate.[11] Such individual level solutions are perfect for the alcohol industry as they do nothing to fetter the sale and distribution of alcohol and instead directly target individuals and assign them responsibility for their behaviour leaving the industry free of unwelcome obstacles to business.

Further reading, Notes

Holder, H. D. and Edwards, G. (eds) (1995) Alcohol and Public Policy: Evidence and Issues. Oxford University Press, New York.


  1. ICAP Website Our Staff Marcus Grant.
  2. ICAP Website About ICAP
  3. ICAP Website Our Staff Marcus Grant
  4. Marcus Grant and Jorge Litvak, (1999) Drinking Patterns & Their Consequences. Taylor & Francis, Washington
  5. Colin Drummond,Alcohol and Alcoholism Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 217-218, 2000 Review of Drinking Patterns and their Consequences
  6. Bruun, K., Edwards, G., Lumio, M. et al. (1975) Alcohol Control Policies in Public Health Perspective. Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, Helsinki.
  7. Edwards, G., Anderson, P., Babor, T. F. et al. (1992) Alcohol Policy and the Public Good. Oxford University Press, New York.,
  8. Babor, T. F., Edwards, G. and Stockwell, T. (1996) Science and the drinks industry: cause for concern. Addiction 91, 5–9.[ISI][Medline]
  9. Babor et al., 1996
  10. Edwards, G. (1998) If the drinks industry does not clean up its act, pariah status is inevitable. British Medical Journal 317, 336.[ISI][Medline]
  11. Abigail Trafford 'Don't Call Him Hopeless' The Washington Post, January 13th 1998