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.”


For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Hastings or Alison Douglas, please contact Gillian Bell on 0141 572 6293 or email:

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:
  • 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:
  • 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:
At December 1st, several European NGO's (including EUCAM) organised the event "What about our kids?", that will be hosted by MEP Daciana Octavia Sârbu. 
Reports about this events:
The Audiovisual Media Services Directive offers a once in a decade opportunity to protect children from commercial communications on alcohol and unhealthy foods.
On 1 December, join experts from a wide range of backgrounds to discuss the effects of advertising on children’s behaviours, tools to reduce child exposure to commercial communications for unhealthy food and alcohol and the effectiveness of self-regulatory schemes. More information on the event, including the preliminary programme, will follow soon. Venue:
European Parliament, Brussels Room József Antall 4Q2
If you do not have a valid access pass to the European Parliament, please state your full name, date of birth, ID type and ID number with your registration.
General queries: Marleen Kestens | Communications: AVMSD | What about our kids? Event supported by:
European Heart Network (EHN); British Medical Association (BMA); European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare); European Association for the study of the liver (EASL); European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM); European Public Health Alliance (EPHA); International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM); IOGT-NTO; Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP)
Authors: Tim Lobstein, Jane Landon, Nicole Thornton & David Jernigan Title: The commercial use of digital media to market alcohol products: a narrative review Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13493OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Background and aims: The rising use of digital media in the last decade, including social networking media and downloadable applications, has created new opportunities for marketing a wide range of goods and services, including alcohol products. This paper aims to review the evidence in order to answer a series of policy-relevant questions: does alcohol marketing through digital media influence drinking behaviour or increases consumption; what methods of promotional marketing are used, and to what extent; and what is the evidence of marketing code violations and especially of marketing to children? Methods and findings: A search of scientific, medical and social journals and authoritative grey literature identified 47 relevant papers (including 14 grey literature documents). The evidence indicated (i) that exposure to marketing through digital media was associated with higher levels of drinking behaviour; (ii) that the marketing activities make use of materials and approaches that are attractive to young people and encourage interactive engagement with branded messaging; and (iii) there is evidence that current alcohol marketing codes are being undermined by alcohol producers using digital media. Conclusions: There is evidence to support public health interventions to restrict the commercial promotion of alcohol in digital media, especially measures to protect children and youth. The article can be downloaded via this link in the Wiley Online Library.
8b_ur52O The BBC reports that the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has called for alcohol advertising at events aimed at children to be banned. This call is a reaction to a bill currently before the Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament. The BMA said it hoped the debate would draw attention to the "comprehensive alcohol strategy Scotland needs". The bill proposes to limit alcohol advertising near places used by children, such as schools, and at events targeted at children. It would also limit alcohol advertising on retail premises. "It should not be acceptable for the alcohol industry to sponsor and brand events that are aimed at under-18s and MSPs should use this opportunity to take action on alcohol advertising,", Dr Peter Bennie, the chair of BMA Scotland, told the BBC. BMA Scotland are specifically backing the sections of the bill aimed at alcohol advertising around children, rather than the whole bill. A spokesperson said that the organisation still had concerns over other sections of the ‘Alcohol (Licensing, Public Health and Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill.’ Source: 06/04/15
640px-Woolworths_Temora_01Australian supermarket chain Woolworths last month defended plans for opening a liquor store opposite a primary school in New South Wales by referring to research by a psychologist claiming that exposing children to alcohol advertising helps protect them from ''the seductive powers of capitalism.' This rhetoric has sparked a storm of protest. In a submission to Liverpool Council in support of a proposed liquor store opposite a school at Moorebank, Woolworths referred to work by British psychology academic Adrian Furnham that ''early exposure to any form of advertising is vital to protect young minds against the seductive powers of capitalism''. Woolworths was responding to criticism that advertising material at the store might encourage under-age drinking. The Liverpool Council rejected the proposal, which was opposed by doctors, police and parents. Health experts and community advocates have ridiculed the company's claims, which come amid growing calls for governments to crack down on aggressive alcohol promotions and advertising. The Sydney Morning Herald presented some of the reactions: Mike Daube, the co-chairman of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol and a leading public health expert, described the company's claims as ''bizarre'' and ''reminiscent of the whacky and desperate arguments we used to hear against cigarette ad bans''. Community advocate Tony Brown described the company's view as ''preposterous'' and questioned why liquor companies advertised if they did not want to increase consumption. Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Michael Thorn said the evidence was clear that ''alcohol advertising does have a detrimental effect'':
''There is extensive research to show that alcohol marketing influences the age at which a person starts drinking, the volume and frequency of their drinking and their attitudes to alcohol''.
Mr Thorn called for a ban on alcohol advertising before 8.30pm during live sports broadcasts and a strengthening of NSW liquor laws to prohibit ''harmful discounting and promotion of alcohol''. Woolworths is primarily known as a supermarket chain, but also owns the Dan Murphy's and BWS chains of liquor stores, which makes it Australia’s largest packaged liquor retailer. Source: Sydney Morning Herald 01/11/15
Speaking at the House of Lords, Labour peer Lord Brooke accused ministers of bowing to pressure from the alcohol industry. According to Lord Brooke a bill which is currently going through the House of Lords aims to remove the law that presently prohibits the sale of alcohol to children in the form of food. Baron Clive Brooke of Alverthorpe said during question time: "Isn't it true that the Government has responded to the industry's pressure to remove the law that presently deters the sale of liqueur to children in other forms in food. (…) Because the sale of alcohol in liquid forms has been declining the industry is now seeking to extend the areas in which it is selling alcohol in other forms - particularly those available to children - like ice cream with vodka in it, sorbets with vodka in it.” "Why have they responded solely to the industry's pressure to repeal that act which protects children when no one else - parents, the chief medical officer - has asked the Government to do this?”, asked Lord Brooke. Lady Williams told him: "I do recall when I was a child the one sweet that would never be eaten was the chocolate liqueur because they were so revolting. Should a child decide to eat them, they would have to eat vast quantities of chocolate to have the equivalent of one glass of wine. "In term of the ice creams or the sorbets, they are subject to the same rules as alcohol themselves and cannot be sold to children under the age of 18." But shadow Home Office minister Baroness Smith of Basildon asked for Lady Williams to confirm that the Deregulation Bill would not change the current position on selling alcohol in forms other than liquid to children under the age of 16. Lady Williams told her: "The rules are that 0.2 litres per kilogram is the limit and that is to stop vast quantities of alcohol being put into food." Source: 11/17/14  
Author: Barry AE, Johnson E, Rabre A, Darville G, Donovan KM, Efunbumi O. Title: Underage access to online alcohol marketing content: a YouTube case study Journal: Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2014;ePub(ePub):ePub-ePub. AbstractOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Aims: With the proliferation of the Internet and online social media use, alcohol advertisers are now marketing their products through social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. As a result, new recommendations have been made by the Federal Trade Commission concerning the self-regulation of digital marketing strategies, including content management on social and digital media sites. The current study sought to determine whether alcohol companies were implementing the self-imposed mandates that they have developed for online marketing. Specifically, we examined whether alcohol companies were implementing effective strategies that would prevent persons under the minimum legal drinking age in the USA from accessing their content on YouTube. Methods: We assessed 16 alcohol brands (beer and liquor) associated with the highest prevalence of past 30 day underage alcohol consumption in the USA. Fictitious YouTube user profiles were created and assigned the ages of 14, 17 and 19. These profiles then attempted to access and view the brewer-sponsored YouTube channels for each of the 16 selected brands. Results: Every underage profile, regardless of age, was able to successfully subscribe to each of the 16 (100%) official YouTube channels. On average, two-thirds of the brands' channels were successfully viewed (66.67%). Conclusion: Alcohol industry provided online marketing content is predominantly accessible to underage adolescents. Thus, brewers are not following some of the self-developed and self-imposed mandates for online advertising by failing to implement effective age-restriction measures (i.e. age gates).