MPs and health groups are stepping up their calls for even tougher restrictions on alcohol advertising, claiming the looming Christmas celebrations will trigger a “constant bombardment” of activity which will prey on vulnerable people as well as children.
A new Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) report has found that the marketing of alcohol at special events makes it difficult for those who were addicted or in recovery to fully participate in everyday life and could trigger relapse.
The report, titled “No escape: How alcohol marketing preys on children and vulnerable people”, also notes that children are regularly exposed to alcohol marketing and demonstrated high levels of brand awareness.
According to the Advertising Code, the rules already state that alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by reflecting youth culture, and individuals that feature in alcohol ads must be 25 years of age or over, and look it.
There are also strict controls around the placement of alcohol ads and they are currently banned from appearing in and around programmes targeted at audiences below the age of 18 and programmes likely to appeal particularly to this age group.
But the AHA, which represents more than 60 non-governmental organisations, insists these rules do not go far enough, and is calling on ministers to include booze ads in the new advertising restrictions for food and drink brands high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) under the Health & Care Bill.
AHA chairman Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: “The constant bombardment of alcohol marketing is a significant contributor to alcohol harm in the UK.
“The glamourisation of a harmful product creates a culture where alcohol is seen as an essential part of everyday life. With deaths linked to alcohol at record highs, we are in desperate need of a new approach.
“The Government must now introduce comprehensive marketing restrictions in both real-world and digital spaces to ensure that vulnerable adults and children are protected from alcohol advertising and its harm.”
Susan Laurie, who has been in recovery for seven years, said: “Christmas is the season when the adverts for alcohol are relentless. They convince us that alcohol is an essential part of the festivities.
“Supermarkets also push discounted alcohol and will have special offers that are designed to make us buy more and more drink. Trying to maintain sobriety is difficult at the best of times, but at Christmas alcohol is absolutely everywhere, and this can have devastating consequences – as it did for me.”
Christian Wakeford, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, said: “The current self-regulatory alcohol marketing system is failing to protect our children and vulnerable adults from exposure to alcohol advertising.
“Restrictions for tobacco advertising have been in place for many years, and stricter requirements have been proposed for junk food advertising. Like alcohol, these products can cause harm to our health. Alcohol should be no exception. We need to ensure alcohol marketing regulations are entirely independent of the industry and are effective to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”
Shadow public health secretary Alex Norris said: “Alcohol continues to hurt too many individuals, families and communities across our country. This report is another reminder that we need to do more to stop and prevent this harm.
“With deaths linked to alcohol now at record highs, the Government must urgently introduce a series of preventative measures to decrease harmful drinking. This should include comprehensive controls on alcohol marketing, as recommended by both this report and the World Health Organisation.”
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