Grocery Gazette, 31st August 2021
The Scottish government is being urged to introduce “comprehensive restrictions” on alcohol marketing after a new poll showed a majority in favour.
Research by YouGov found three quarters (75 per cent) of people support controls being brought in to limit how much children and young people are exposed to drinks advertising.
More than two thirds (68 per cent) backed a ban on alcohol advertising on the TV before 9pm, while 71 per cent say that in cinemas adverts for alcohol should only be shown before films with an 18 certificate.
Meanwhile, 51 per cent support barring alcohol advertising in outdoor and public places, such as in parks and on public transport.
In the wake of the poll the Alcohol Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 organisations working to tackle drink-related harm, called for action from both Holyrood and Westminster.
It comes after figures in August showed a 17 per cent increase in alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland in 2020, with 1190 fatalities recorded over the year.
Alcohol Focus Scotland, a member of the Alcohol Health Alliance, insisted more needed to be done to protect young people.
“Alcohol companies invest billions of pounds a year in marketing their products but despite an ever-growing evidence base that exposure to alcohol marketing is a cause of drinking onset and binge drinking, the current system of self-regulation is failing to protect our young people,” chief executive Alison Douglas said.
“The figures released last week on the high number of deaths from alcohol in Scotland underline the need to redouble our efforts on prevention in line with what works, increasing the price, limiting the availability and restricting the marketing of alcohol.
“This new polling shows that the Scottish public support controls to reduce alcohol marketing to protect our children and young people.
“Children’s Parliament investigators aged between nine and 11 years old have also called for action to remove adverts and to make alcohol less visible.
“Now it is time for the Scottish government to respond by introducing comprehensive restrictions on alcohol marketing, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations.”
Dr Nathan Critchlow (photo), an academic fellow at the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University, said regulating the marketing of alcohol was an “important topic of debate, both in Scotland and internationally”.
He said: “Several countries in Europe already have strict controls on where alcohol can be advertised and what advertising is allowed to say, while Ireland is in the process of implementing a range of new restrictions and the Scottish Government plan to consult on whether to introduce new controls.
“Although tobacco and alcohol are not identical products, the impact of various UK Government restrictions on tobacco marketing on youth smoking rates are plain to see, so it is logical that restrictions on alcohol marketing may be similarly effective.”
A Scottish government spokesman added “We have seen progress in reducing alcohol-related harm in Scotland in recent years, following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing, however, we want to reduce deaths and harm from alcohol even further and will take action to do so.
“That includes consulting on potential restrictions on alcohol advertising and improving health information on product labels – although some aspects of this, such as TV advertising, are currently reserved to the UK government.
“Keeping track of our drinking is even more important than usual during these difficult times – the UK chief medical officers recommend we don’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over at least three days.”