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:

The Scotch Whisky Association has applied to appeal in the UK Supreme Court against minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland. Scotland's alcohol camapigners criticise arrogant Scotch Whisky Association for appealing minimum pricing.

  The Court of Session ruled against the group in October after a lengthy legal challenge against the policy, which would set a minimum unit price of 50p. But the SWA said it had a "strong view that minimum pricing is incompatible with EU law" and would appeal further.

However, Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP say the Scotch Whisky Association’s intention to appeal the Court of Session ruling on minimum pricing for alcohol “beggars belief” and shows they only care about the profits of their member companies.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “This is truly shocking and saddening news. In appealing minimum pricing to the UK Supreme Court, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) are ignoring both the will of the Scottish Parliament and the Court’s decision. “Twenty two Scots are dying because of alcohol every single week. Minimum pricing will save many lives and improve many more. In taking legal action, SWA members like Diageo and Pernod Ricard continue to put their shareholders’ profits above the public interest. When it comes to the nation’s health, we cannot allow the alcohol industry to call the shots. “It is totally disingenuous of the SWA to say they are committed to tackling alcohol harm when they consistently block the single most effective measure to achieve that. They are borrowing from the tactics of the tobacco companies in delaying this live-saving measure. “Minimum pricing could have been in place for three years now; three years of alcohol-related illnesses, crimes and deaths that could have been avoided. How many more people will suffer while the SWA delay this life-saving policy?” Eric Carlin, Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said: “It beggars belief that, after the Court of Session’s final decision that minimum unit pricing is legal and a vital component of efforts to reduce alcohol harms, the Scotch Whisky Association continues to challenge the Scottish Parliament and courts, with disregard for the health of Scottish people. “They know that they will not win this case in London. Everyone knows that. Meanwhile 22 people die every week. One can only assume that their accountants have calculated that delaying the implementation of MUP will prolong, albeit for a short period, their profit-making from cheap booze, which damages the poor most of all.”   Sources: and
scotland outdoor ad ban Scottish Ministers are under pressure to support a ban on alcohol advertising near schools after research carried out by Members of the Scottish Parliament suggested there was considerable public sympathy for the policy. The proposal was backed by 78 per cent of those who responded to a survey carried out by the Parliaments’ health committee. According to the National, the survey’s findings will inform the views of members of the cross-party body taking evidence on the Alcohol Bill, introduced into the Scottish Parliament by Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament Dr Richard Simpson. Simpson’s plan is to prohibit the advertising of alcohol within 200 metres of schools, nurseries and play parks, and to ban alcohol advertising at public events where most people taking part are children or where the event is aimed at children. The latter ban was supported by 83 per cent of the 543 people who took part in the survey last month. Under his plans, those breaching the advertising regulations would be fined. “The proposals with the strongest support were the ban on advertising near venues used by children and the ban on sponsorship of events targeted at children,” the survey report said. The introduction of drinking banning orders, which would prohibit someone convicted of an alcohol-related offence from going into a pub for up to two years, was also popular, with support from 75 per cent. Ministers are keen to combat problem drinking in Scotland. The country has one of the fastest growing rates of liver disease in the world, while in six out of 10 violent crimes the offender was under the influence of alcohol, according to last year’s Scottish Crime and Justice Survey. The Scottish Government has tried to bring in curbs on cheap alcohol, and in 2012 legislation to introduce a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol was passed by the Scottish Parliament. However, this was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association, which claims it breaches European law. The matter is currently before the European Court of Justice, which will issue a preliminary ruling later this year. Simpson last night welcomed the public backing for his proposals. “I believe that with the minimum unit pricing, and the legislation still being suspended in the European Court, this bill is even more important,” he said. Members of the health committee are due to continue taking evidence on the Bill, and the Parliament will vote on it in February. Source: The National 10/26/15
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
Will Scotland get five years to test their minimum alcohol unit pricing policy? The BBC reports that the European Court of Justice is to hear evidence from the Scottish government on its case for introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol. The hearing in Luxembourg will enable the court to produce its preliminary ruling on the policy. The Scottish Parliament passed legislation to bring in a minimum unit price of 50p in May 2012. But this was fought legally by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which argued it breached European law. Scottish ministers have said minimum pricing was vital to address Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink". The legal bid by the SWA, backed by other European wine and spirits producers, was initially rejected in 2013. Following an appeal hearing however, the case was referred to the European court for its opinion last year. Besides Scotland, other EU member states are also expected to make representations at the court, with Ireland, Norway, the UK and Sweden expected to argue in support of the policy. A preliminary ruling by the court in Luxembourg will be issued later this year and the case will then be referred back to the Court of Session for a final decision. Source: 05/06/15
flag-st-andrews-cross-1-584558-m The 2011 ban on multi-buy and buy-one-get-one-free deals on alcohol has reduced Scottish consumption by one million litres of pure alcohol a year, new figures show. Consumption levels fell almost 3% from 34.04 million litres of pure alcohol in 2011 – when the Scottish government implemented the legislation the Alcohol Act – to 33.08 million litres in 2012. The Act also placed restrictions on alcohol advertising around premises and imposed age verification checks in addition to a social responsibility levy on various licence holders. Dr Jim Lewsey, of the University of Glasgow, who is partly responsible for the research, noted that similar declines were not seen in England and Wales where the Alcohol Act has not come into practice. “The possible impacts of other factors, such as changes in income and alcohol prices, were taken into account,” he said. “This provides evidence that the effects were associated with the Act and not some other factor.” “Although these effects are welcome, alcohol consumption in Scotland remains high and a large proportion is still sold at relatively low prices, said Mark Robinson, of the Scottish public health care service NHS Health Scotland. Robinson also stressed that “there is evidence that the positive effects of the act would be enhanced by minimum unit pricing to prevent the sale of cheap, high-strength alcohol.” The plan to set a minimum price for all alcoholic drinks in Scotland has been referred by appeal judges to the European Court of Justice after a long legal battle waged by whisky giants. The Court of Session said complex issues involving free trade law and the right of ministers to set price controls to protect public health could only be decided in Europe. Scotland’s former public health minister Michael Matheson said: “It’s encouraging that the amount of alcohol being sold in Scotland has decreased since the Alcohol Act. However, consumption is still higher than England and Wales.” Metheson further drove home the point that “700 hospital admissions and 20 deaths a week are attributable to alcohol. At the heart of the problem is the fact that alcohol is around 60 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980.” Source: 01/02/15 Picture source:
Will Scotland get five years to test their minimum alcohol unit pricing policy? Donald Henderson, the head of public health in Scotland has pleaded for the alcohol industry to withdraw its court case against the Scottish government’s plan to introduce minimum unit pricing. Henderson asked instead to wait five years for the pioneering policy to complete its trial. At the sixth European Alcohol Policy Conference in Brussels last week, Henderson proposed that the plans be given a chance before being dismissed: “Let us do it for five years. If we fail, so be it.” According to Henderson, the Scottish government would repeal the policy after five years if it would prove to be ineffective. He added that the Scottish plans form an invaluable trial and it will add strong evidence about the effectiveness of minimum pricing policy. The proposal for introducing minimum unit pricing in Scotland has been challenged by Scotch whisky and wine producers and is currently in front of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The case is expected to conclude in 2016. However, in his presentation Henderson hinted that a verdict might take considerably longer. All this time that the court case is pending, the new law cannot be applied. Speaking about the critical alcohol industry lobby Henderson said: “What struck me in court is the long term damage the industry is doing to its reputation by the use and abuse of poor science”. He warned the alcohol industry that it risks “completely losing its credibility”. Source: 12/02.14