The Scotsman, by Jane Bradley; 3rd March 2023
When Celtic stepped onto the pitch to play French team Rennes in the Europa League in 2011, the players were not wearing their usual shirts. Instead, the iconic Tennent’s lager logo was replaced with a blank, sponsorless, strip.
“It’s pretty common, France introduced the ‘Loi Evin’ (Evin Law) in the early 1990s,” says European Alcohol Policy Alliance president Dr Peter Rice – referencing the law which largely outlawed alcohol advertising. “They were very worried about alcohol harm. And it has actually done very well in reducing that. There are many countries around the world where alcohol promotion is not a common thing. It often surprises people.”
Countries which do not allow alcohol to be marketed during sports matches include Ireland and Uzbekistan, as well as France. If recommendations currently put forward for consultation by the Scottish Government are approved, Scotland could join them.
“In Scotland, currently, the alcohol industry’s own guidelines say that adverts should not suggest that alcohol enhances sporting performance or leads to sporting success,” says Dr Rice. “That’s written in their own guidelines. Yet your football team can run out with a beer logo on the back of their shirts.”
Under the proposals, the Scottish Government could prohibit alcohol-branded sports merchandise, including sponsorship on replica kits and ban alcohol advertising at any sports match which could have children in the audience. See more comments of Dr. Rice in this article.
In the Nordic countries of Iceland and Norway, regulation on alcohol marketing has been around almost longer than the concept of marketing itself.
Lauri Beekmann, director of the Nordic Drug and Alcohol Policy Alliance, points to a law introduced in Iceland in 1928, which essentially prohibited advertising of alcohol, while Norway brought in its own rules after alcohol returned to the country following a period of prohibition almost a century ago.
“These policies have undergone some changes, but they have generally retained their key principles,” he says. “The Nordic countries have a unique traditional alcohol policy that places public health above economic interests. This comprehensive alcohol policy includes a restrictive attitude towards alcohol marketing.”
“When the focus of alcohol policy is centred on public health and societal well-being, the recent scientific evidence linking alcohol to cancer and the increased understanding of the harm caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, make it evident that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity that should be promoted and portrayed in all aspects of life, especially since it is often marketed in an attractive way to young people. This leads to the logical conclusion that alcohol should not be promoted in a way that suggests it is a desirable product.”
Mr Beekmann points out that despite a history of high levels of binge drinking in Nordic countries, similar to that of Scotland, Norway and Iceland have the lowest drinking levels in Europe, while Sweden and Finland have consumption levels that are below the European average. Denmark, however, which does not follow the path of other Nordic countries, has the highest alcohol consumption rates among young people in the European Union.
Baltic countries have followed their Nordic neighbours in recent times to tighten up their laws. At the end of the last decade, Lithuania became the first EU member country to introduce a total ban on alcohol advertising, along with raising the legal drinking age to 20 and implementing strong tax increases, among other measures. Meanwhile, in Estonia, only the product can be shown in ads, without any accompanying imagery of people or lifestyle – while the country also bans all alcohol advertising in public places.