We’re campaigning for restrictions on alcohol marketing to protect children and people impacted by alcohol harm.
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?
Alcohol use is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15 to 49-year-olds in the UK. Yet little has been done to limit its promotion.
Marketing serves to normalise alcohol consumption and have us believe it is 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. 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. There is strong evidence to show that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink more, and to drink at an earlier age.
It is clear that 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 adverts are frequently found on and near public transport, on prime-time television, and on websites and social media. Marketing drives consumption, prolongs people’s dependence, and undermines their treatment and recovery.
What is the Alcohol Health Alliance UK campaigning for?
Children have the right to grow up and live in a safe and healthy environment that is free from exposure to harmful marketing. Advertising regulations have been introduced 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.
We are calling on the government to:
- Include alcohol in the definition of ‘unhealthy products’ under the marketing regulations for products high in fat, sugar and salt.
- Give responsibility for ensuring alcohol marketing practices adhere to higher standards to an independent body with no links to the alcohol or advertising industries.
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