Gerry Stimson

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Gerry Stimson is a sociologist who has been promoting a harm reduction approach to public health since 1987, first related to drug use and later to alcohol and tobacco control.1


Stimson is the founder and Director of Knowledge-Action-Change (K-A-C) which says it is “a private sector public health agency”2 that aims to promote health through harm reduction. Read more on our page on K-A-C.

New Nicotine Alliance

Stimson was also on the Board of the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) until 2019. The NNA says it is “completely independent of commercial interests in relevant industries (e-cigarettes, tobacco, pharmaceutical companies, etc). It operates on a not-for-profit basis and is free from commercial bias”.34

NNA UK was a founder member of INNCO, until it announced it had ceased its membership on 12 July 2019 “due to differences concerning future strategy, including funding arrangements.” 56

According to a NNA UK newsletter from August 2019, Stimson – who had been a Board member of NNA UK since at least 2015 – stepped down from the Board shortly after it announced it was leaving INNCO.789 As of November 2019, Stimson was no longer listed on the NNA website as being part of NNA UK.4

Links to Academia, Governments, the World Bank, UN and WHO

In 2004, Stimson was appointed Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London. In 2017, he was appointed Honorary Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.10

According to a biography written by him in 2013, Stimson has “advised the UK Government, World Health Organization, UNAIDS Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNODC United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank and others on issues relating to drugs and addiction. He was a member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence NICE up to 2013 working group that recently prepared guidelines on tobacco harm reduction. He has no competing interests.”11

Direct and Indirect Tobacco Industry Links

K-A-C Funded by Foundation for a Smoke-Free World

Knowledge-Action-Change (K-A-C), of which Stimson is the founder and a Director, is funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), which is wholly funded by PMI. More information on the financial relationship between FSFW and KAC can be found on our pages on K-A-C and FSFW grantees.

Historical Links with British American Tobacco

At a NICE Programme Development Group (PDG) for Tobacco Harm Reduction meeting in 2011, Stimson declared he had “received hospitality from British American Tobacco staff and has reciprocated.”12 as well as “declared that last year he attended a Christmas drinks receptions at British American Tobacco Ltd”.13

At a February 2013, NICE meeting, Stimson also “declared that he is the director of a company called Knowledge Action Change, which has requested and received development funding from Nicoventures for a project to support smoking cessation in a closed setting.”14

Nicoventures was set up by BAT in 2010.15 Stimson is largely transparent about these links in the academic literature although he describes Nicoventures only as an e-cigarette company rather than a company set up, and wholly owned, by BAT.

For example, one such declaration says: “A company of which G.S. Gerry Stimson is a director has received a research feasibility grant from an electronic cigarette company developing a new nicotine delivery device.”1617

The links are also disclosed in the British Medical Journal,18 and in an Appendix to a letter on e-cigarettes to the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2014.19 In these he refers to receiving money from “a company developing a nicotine delivery device” or a “company developing a nicotine product”.

Historical Alcohol Industry Links

International Harm Reduction Association

From 2004 to 2010, Stimson was the Executive Director of the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), whose aim is to reduce the negative health, social and human rights impacts of drug use and drug policy.1020 In 2011, the IHRA relaunched as International Harm Reduction (IHR).21

At the time that Stimson was Director, the IHRA broadened out to work on alcohol. An academic article published in December 2014, argued that IHRA had a “close relationship” with the alcohol industry.22 According to the paper, the IHRA “specifically promotes reducing harm by means other than reducing consumption”, although reducing consumption is seen as the main way to reduce harm from alcohol.23

For example, in August 2004, the IHRA was a co-sponsor of the 2nd International Conference on Alcohol and Harm Reduction, where the focus was on challenging “traditional models” of thinking on alcohol. At the conference there was an emphasis on a “shift of attention from reducing alcohol consumption per se to reducing alcohol related harm”.2425

For the time that Stimson was a Director, IHRA accounts reveal the Association took some £260,000 from the alcohol industry in restricted (funds that can only be used for specific purposes) and unrestricted funding. (See Table 1)2627282930

Table 1

  2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Total
Unrestricted alcohol funding 39,993 33,737 15,000 88,730
Restricted (Diageo Alcohol and City project 59,834 40,166 3,000 30,026 41,974 175,000
Total 99,827 73,903 18,000 30,026 41,974 263,730

In 2008, when IHRA launched the Global Alcohol Harm Reduction Network, it said it was “funded and administered by IHRA. The network activities are funded through IHRA’s core funding, which is raised from a wide range of sources (such as conferences, project grants, membership, and donations).”In previous years, this core funding has included unrestricted donations from the alcohol industry, but IHRA no longer receives any such funding for this work.”31

In an online debate, Stimson has maintained that “there was no close relationship, association or collaboration with the alcohol industry” during the period when he was Director of the IHRA between 2004-2010.32

“Drinking in Context”

There has been a controversy over a book that Stimson co-edited in the 1990s on alcohol. Despite the involvement of alcohol funded think-tanks with researchers on the book, some of these links have since been downplayed and the book has been criticised in the academic press.

In 2007, Stimson was the “main editor” of a book “Drinking in context: patterns, interventions, and partnerships”,33 in which both IHRA and International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), collaborated. The book has been highly criticised in leading medical journals (see below).

The foreword to the book said:

“The International Center for Alcohol Policies, which has taken the lead in the preparation of the book, is a think-tank supported by major drinks companies. Three other organizations have also contributed their expertise to this process: the International Harm Reduction Association has extensive experience in the field of illicit drugs; the World Federation for Mental Health has broad mandate to promote better mental health; and the Institut de Recherches Scientifiques sur les Boissons provides a welcome antidote to the Anglo-Saxon domination of the alcohol field.”33

ICAP’s website also outlined how:

“This book was commissioned by the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), with assistance of expertise from the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH), and the Institut de Recherches Scientifiques sur les Boissons (IREB).” 34

Other material issued by ICAP admits that “The initiative in preparing this book was spearheaded by the International Center for Alcohol Policies”.35

Despite these statements, in 2014, the then President of ICAP, Marcus Grant, refuted that IHRA and ICAP collaborated in the book, arguing that “This book was not the result of a collaboration between ICAP and the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) … I co-edited the book with three co-editors including Gerry Stimson, President of IHRA at the time, who did this work in his personal capacity.”36

“Smoke and Mirrors”

One critic, writing in the peer-reviewed journal Addiction, criticised this book as a ‘‘smoke and mirrors’’ attempt to distract attention away from effective population level policies on alcohol.

Of the 26 authors in the book, the article outlined how eight either worked for the alcohol industry or for organisations funded by the industry.37

Another reviewer, this time in the British Medical Journal added: “This book chiefly serves the purposes of the global alcohol industry and offers little to those wishing to tackle the unrestrained growth in global alcohol consumption that is predicted for the coming decade … The harm reduction movement needs clear blue water between itself and the alcohol industry.”38

In 2014, Rick Lines, the Director of the HRI (formerly IHRA), contended that the organisation was not involved in alcohol harm reduction any more. Lines argued that: “we have no alcohol-related projects on the go, and haven’t been involved in alcohol harm reduction since 2010.”39

International Center for Alcohol Policies

In 2014, Stimson was also on the Research Advisory Board of ICAP,40

ICAP was a not-for-profit organisation founded by the major producers of alcohol in 1995. Its sponsors in 2014 included:41

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev
  • Asahi Breweries
  • Bacardi-Martini
  • Beam Inc.
  • Brown-Forman Corporation
  • Carlsberg
  • Diageo
  • Heineken
  • Kirin Holdings Company, Limited
  • Moët Hennessy
  • Molson Coors
  • Pernod Ricard
  • SABMiller
  • UB Group

ICAP “part of a sophisticated public relations process” by the alcohol industry

ICAP has been criticised in the academic literature. One article in the British Medical Journal in 2007 noted how:

“What the industry fears is any control of the overall level of alcohol consumption. Public health advocates are focusing on strategies aimed at reducing the total consumption of alcohol, and the industry’s key aim is to promote overall consumption, albeit responsibly.”

“As part of a sophisticated public relations process the industry has established the International Centre for Alcohol Policy … The industry is determined to shape the public health debate and to protect its interests.”38

Another journal article in the American Journal of Public Health in 2012, stated:

“Comparison of ICAP research and policy statements with findings from the WHO and other public health bodies and researchers showed how the industry has simultaneously cast itself as representing public health and ignored key findings of public health research regarding effective approaches to the prevention and reduction of alcohol-related problems.” 42

ICAP was also criticised for its role in producing science to ensure the alcohol industry’s involvement and influence in alcohol policy debates:

“The ICAP and other alcohol industry organizations continue to argue, advocate, and promote the alcohol industry’s involvement in medicine and public health … The ICAP and its alcohol industry sponsors apparently learned from tobacco that industry must be out front in terms of social responsibility, able to foreshadow and pre-empt public health initiatives, as the ICAP has consistently done with its publications and other activities mirroring the work of the WHO. Industry arguments must be “science-based” and clothed in research credentials, as the ICAP has done with its many briefing papers and policy reviews. Rather than direct confrontation with public health, which the ICAP has studiously avoided, partnership is critical.”42

The International Alliance For Responsible Drinking (IARD)

In October 2014, ICAP and the Global Alcohol Producers Group (GAPG) announced that the two organisations were merging to create the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD). It was officially launched in 2015.

In the press statement about the merger it was announced that “IARD will work to help reduce harmful drinking and promote responsible drinking through research, programs, and balanced debate around the world.”

The press release also stated that:

“Central to IARD’s mission will be supporting and accelerating implementation of the Beer, Wine and Spirits Producers’ Commitments to Reduce Harmful Drinking ( The organization will promote effective policies and programs, as well as contribute to an informed debate by providing balanced and evidence-based science.”43

The release added that provisional board members of the new organisation included:

  • Anadolu EFES;
  • AB InBev;
  • Asahi Breweries;
  • Bacardi; Beam Suntory;
  • Brewers Association of Japan;
  • Brown-Forman Corporation;
  • Carlsberg;
  • Constellation;
  • Diageo;
  • Heineken;
  • JSLMA;
  • Kirin;
  • Moët Hennessy;
  • Molson Coors;
  • Pernod Ricard;
  • SABMiller

Toolkits Adapted From “Drinking in Context”

IARD produced a series of Toolkits, including one called “Policy Planning and Choice: Guide to Feasible Interventions”. On the front page it stated that the briefing paper was adapted from Stimson’s co-edited book, “Drinking in Context: Patterns, Interventions and Partnerships”. 44

TobaccoTactics Resources

Relevant Links

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  1. G. Stimson, Email to Tobacco Control Research Group, Subject: My entry on the Tobacco Tactics website, 23 November 2018, 15:15
  2. Knowledge Action Exchange website, undated, accessed May 2020
  3. New Nicotine Alliance, Board of Trustees, undated, archived March 2019, accessed May 2020
  4. abNew Nicotine Alliance, About us, undated, accessed May 2020
  5. International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations, Members, INNCO website homepage, undated, accessed November 2019
  6. New Nicotine Alliance, Announcement: New Nicotine Alliance UK leaves international consumer organisation, NNA press release, 12 July 2019, accessed November 2019
  7. New Nicotine Alliance, About us, NNA website, undated, archived January 2015, accessed November 2019
  8. New Nicotine Alliance, Gerry Stimson, NNA website, undated, archived January 2015, accessed November 2019
  9. New Nicotine Alliance, A tragedy of errors, NNA July newsletter, NNA website, 6 August 2019, accessed November 2019
  10. abG. Stimson, LinkedIn profile, accessed May 2020
  11. C. Bates, G. Stimson, Cost and burdens of medicines regulation for e-cigarettes, 20 September 2013, Nicotine Science Policy website, accessed March 2016
  12. NICE, Tobacco harm reduction – 1st Meeting of the Programme Development Group, Tuesday 18th October 2011, Final Minutes, accessed November 2018
  13. NICE, 5th Meeting of the Programme Development Group, 30 May 2012, Final Minutes, accessed November 2018
  14. NICE, 8th Meeting of the Programme Development Group, 5 February 2013, Final Minutes, accessed November 2018
  15. British American Tobacco, British American Tobacco establishes stand-alone company, Nicoventures Limited, BAT news release, 5 April 2011, accessed May 2020
  16. K.E. Farsalinos, G.V. Stimson, Is there any legal and scientific basis for classifying electronic cigarettes as medications?, International Journal of Drug Policy, 2014;25: 340–5
  17. L. Williamson, B. Thom, G.V. Stimson et al, Stigma as a public health tool: Implications for health promotion and citizen involvement, International Journal of Drug Policy, 2014;25(3):333–5
  18. G. Stimson, Re: E-cigarettes and the marketing push that surprised everyone, BMJ, 2013;347,
  19. D. Adams, T. Axéll, P. Bartsch et al, Statement from specialists in nicotine science and public health policy, Nicotine Science Policy website, 26 May 2014, accessed May 2020
  20. International Harm Reduction Association, Website, accessed December 2014
  21. International Harm Reduction, About HRI-History, 2018, accessed November 2018
  22. S. Lyness, J. McCambridge, The alcohol industry, charities and policy influence in the UK, European Journal of Public Health, 2014;24(4): 557-61
  23. J. McCambridge, K. Kypri, C. Drummond et al, Alcohol Harm Reduction: Corporate Capture of a Key Concept, PLoS Medicine, 2014;11(12)
  24. 2nd International Conference on Alcohol and Harm Reduction, undated, archived 2004, accessed December 2014
  25. IHRA, International Harm Reduction Association, undated, archived 2004, accessed December 2014
  26. Abbreviated Accounts for the Year Ended 31 December 2006 for International Harm Reduction Association
  27. International Harm Reduction Association, Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2007
  28. International Harm Reduction Association, Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2008
  29. International Harm Reduction Association, Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2009
  30. International Harm Reduction Association, Report and Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2010
  31. IHRA, GAHR-Net- the Global Alcohol Harm Reduction Network, undated, archived July 2008, accessed December 2014
  32. M. Daube, Protesting too much?, PLoS Medicine, 11 December 2014
  33. abG. Stimson, M. Grant, M. Choquet et al, Drinking in context: patterns, interventions and partnerships. New York: Routledge, 2007
  34. ICAP website, ICAP Website, accessed March 2016
  35. C. Patel, Drinking in Context: Patterns, Interventions, and Partnerships, Psychiatric Services, 2008;59(9), doi:10.1176/ps.2008.59.9.1068
  36. M. Grant, Distortions and Falsehoods, PLoS Medicine, 9 December 2014
  37. R. Caetano, About smoke and mirrors: the alcohol industry and the promotion of science, Addiction, 2008;103:175–178
  38. abM. Farrell, The alcohol industry: taking on the public health critics, BMJ, 2007;335:671
  39. R. Lines, Do your homework, fellas. It’s almost 2015!, PLoS Medicine, 2014
  40. ICAP Research Advisory Board, accessed March 2016
  41. ICAP, Sponsors, accessed March 2016
  42. abD.H. Jernigan, Global Alcohol Producers, Science, and Policy: The Case of the International Center for Alcohol Policies, American Journal of Public Health, 2012,102(1):80–89
  43. ICAP, World’s Leading Producers of Beer, Wine, and Spirits Launch International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), 15 October 2014, archived February 2015
  44. IARD, Drinking in Context: Patterns, Interventions and Partnerships, 2015, accessed November 2018