Removing alcohol adverts from streets and public transport, and phasing out alcohol sponsorship in sport are among the steps that should be taken to prevent alcohol companies grooming children.

In a report published today by Alcohol Focus Scotland, leading academics and health experts outline how the Scottish Government can reduce the unacceptably high levels of alcohol marketing that children and young people are exposed to.

Children are very familiar with and influenced by alcohol brands and advertising campaigns, despite codes of practice which are supposed to protect them. There is clear evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads children to start drinking at a younger age and to drink more if they are already drinking.

Alcohol Focus Scotland was asked by Ministers to facilitate an international expert group on alcohol marketing to advise on the most effective policy options available and how they might be implemented in Scotland.

The group’s recommendations include:

  • removing alcohol marketing from public spaces such as streets, parks, sports grounds and on public transport
  • ending alcohol sponsorship of sports, music and cultural events
  • pressing the UK Government to introduce restrictions on TV alcohol advertising between 6am and 11pm, and to restrict cinema alcohol advertising to 18-certificate films
  • limiting alcohol advertising in newspapers and magazines to publications aimed at adults
  • restricting alcohol marketing on social networking sites

The report also recommends setting up an independent task force on alcohol marketing to remove the regulatory role of the alcohol industry.

More than 30 organisations, including Children 1st, the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and the medical Royal Colleges, as well as the majority of MSPs (72), have pledged their support to end alcohol marketing in childhood. This report now outlines specific actions which could be taken to achieve that.

Professor Gerard Hastings, one of the group members and internationally renowned expert on social marketing, said:

“Self-regulation does not work; it will not control dishonest banks, over-claiming MPs or profit-driven multinational drinks companies. And yet we continue to rely on it to protect our children from alcohol marketing.  It is no surprise that study after study has shown that, as a result, children are being put in harm’s way – and that parents want policy makers to be more courageous.  Scotland now has a chance to grasp this nettle and show how independent statutory regulation of marketing can provide our young people the protection they deserve. The international community is trusting us to take the same public health lead we took on smoke-free public places and minimum unit pricing; let us show them that we will.”

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:

“An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option, yet we allow alcohol companies to groom our children from a young age. They are seeing and hearing positive messages about alcohol when waiting for the school bus, watching the football, at the cinema or using social media. We need to create environments that foster positive choices and support children’s healthy development. We hope Ministers will respond to this report and the groundswell of support for effective alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland.”

Tam Baillie, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland said:

“I strongly support this report which provides clear evidence on the nature and reach of alcohol marketing and makes welcome and sensible proposals to safeguard our children. All children and young people have the right to good health and that must include the right to grow up free from commercial pressures to drink alcohol. The extent of the actions we take now are a good measure of the value we place on our children for the future.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Hastings or Alison Douglas, please contact Gillian Bell on 0141 572 6293 or email: gillianbell@alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk

Notes to editors

  • Alcohol Focus Scotland is the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. The report and summary Promoting good health from childhood, Reducing the impact of alcohol marketing on children in Scotland can be downloaded at: alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/news/scottish-government-urged-to-curb-alcohol-marketing-to-protect-children
  • Or click here to download the report and summary via the EUCAM site. 
  • Members of the international virtual expert group have expertise in alcohol marketing research, policy and legislation, as it relates to the protection of public health, and the reduction of health and social harm caused by alcohol. A full list of members can be found in appendix 2 of the report.
  • Marketing pledge wording: “I believe that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. All children should play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, protected from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.” Full list of supportive organisations: http://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/campaigns-policy/alcohol-marketing/
  • While some marketing restrictions require action at UK or European level, the Scottish Government has substantial powers over key areas of regulation. The report’s recommendations make reference to competence.
  • Last month a series of reports were published in a supplement to the scientific journal Addiction that presents the latest evidence on alcohol marketing and its impact on children. The Addiction supplement, Alcohol marketing regulation: From research to public policy, is free to download from the Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.v112.S1/issuetoc
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