We’re campaigning for restrictions on alcohol marketing to protect children and vulnerable people.
What is alcohol marketing?
Alcohol marketing covers the broad range of methods used to sell alcohol to consumers. This includes: broadcast, print and online advertising, sales promotion (e.g. buy one, get one free offers), product placement and sports sponsorship.
How is alcohol marketing regulated in the UK?
There is no singular body to regulate the marketing of alcohol in the UK.
Devolved governments have the ability to set requirements for alcohol labelling and non-broadcast advertising. Broadcast advertising is the responsibility of the UK Government.
Advertising is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and sponsorship of TV shows by Ofcom.
Complaints made by the public about advertising have to be within the remit of advertising codes. These codes are produced by the Committee of Advertising Practice which is made up of advertising industry representatives. This means advertisers decide what can be complained about.
Under current regulations, alcohol marketing must not:
- Link alcohol with seduction, sex or social success
- Link alcohol with irresponsible, anti-social, tough or daring behaviour
- Show alcohol being served irresponsibly
- Show people drinking and behaving in an adolescent or juvenile way, or reflecting the culture of people under 18 years old
Why do we need tougher laws on alcohol marketing?
The current self-regulatory system is not working. The ASA are unable to issue fines and sanctions when their codes are broken. In upholding complaints they can require companies to stop running adverts, but in the fast-moving world of social media, ASA decisions often come months after a campaign has begun or even after it has ended.
Alcohol use is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15 to 49-year-olds in the UK and yet little has been done to limit its promotion. Advertising restrictions are accepted for other legal products that have health risks, such as cigarettes, junk food and pharmaceuticals. A comparable approach is both necessary and appropriate for alcohol.
Marketing serves as a way to normalise alcohol consumption and have it be seen as part of everyday life from a young age. Research has found that 82% of young people recalled seeing at least one form of alcohol marketing in the last month. Though there are some rules on broadcast alcohol advertising, these are inadequate to properly protect young people. A survey carried out by Alcohol Focus Scotland found 10 and 11 year olds were more familiar with certain beer brands than leading brands of biscuits, crisps and ice cream.
These findings are concerning because there is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink more, and to drink at an earlier age.
The alcohol industry is failing to do the absolute minimum with its marketing and advertising. It’s not providing or giving information about the basic guidelines or about the health consequences of drinking alcohol.Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Commission on Alcohol Harm Report
What is the Alcohol Health Alliance UK campaigning for?
We’re calling on the UK Government to:
- Introduce comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising across multiple media, including restrictions on sponsorships and activities targeting young people.
- Protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising, including through effective age verification online, and a restriction on alcohol advertising in cinemas to films with an 18 certificate. Protections must cover digital media, including influencers, and should be regularly assessed to keep up with developments in technology.
- End alcohol sponsorship of professional sport.
- Ensure marketing regulations are entirely independent of the industry and supported with full legal powers.
We are fed images of alcohol everywhere, adverts, people drinking on the tv, in soaps, people meet at the pub, sports sponsorship by alcohol brands etc.Focus group participant, Big Alcohol Conversation, Commission on Alcohol Harm Report
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