Unhealthy commodities, policy coherence and global health governances

Unhealthy commodities, policy coherence and global health governance: Policy implications of links across alcohol, tobacco and ultra-processed food companies.


The increased prominence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) within global health and development agendas is epitomised by their inclusion within the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet the terms of this inclusion highlight major tensions that undermine the efficacy and legitimacy of national and international health initiatives. The commercial drivers of NCD epidemics are largely ignored, while commitments to partnerships and multi-stakeholder platforms involving alcohol and food producers are often seen as ignoring conflicts between health objectives and economic interests. Conversely, tobacco control is to be pursued via a distinctive model of health governance centred on protecting health policy from tobacco industry interference.

This presentation questions the viability of ‘tobacco exceptionalism’ within health policy. Alongside the comparable health impacts of alcohol, ultra-processed food and tobacco products, there has been increasing recognition of strategic similarities, policy learning and collaboration across their leading producers.

The analysis presented here adds an examination of structural links through mergers and acquisitions and via interlocking directorates, exploring inter-firm ties, cross-sectoral links and access to political elites as well as to health and development agencies. It concludes with an examination of the implications for health governance in the context of current efforts to promote policy coherence for sustainable development.


Jeff Collin is Professor of Global Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh where he established the Global Public Health Unit in the School of Social and Political Science.  A political scientist, his research focuses on globalisation, health governance and corporate strategies to influence public health policy. He has been a member of WHO expert groups on tobacco industry influence on policy, is a member of the Tobacco Advisory Group of Cancer Research UK, a co-investigator in the UK Centre on Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, and an expert advisor for the Institute of Alcohol Studies. Recent publications examine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, conflict of interest in international health philanthropy, policy coherence in global health, and UK government support for the global expansion of the alcohol industry


Free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.