BRITISH children are exposed to more alcohol advertising than adults and need greater protection, experts have warned.
Professor Gerard Hastings from Stirling University, and Dr Nick Sheron, from Southampton University, said urgent changes were needed to the “flawed” regulatory system which allowed youngsters to be exposed to messages from the alcohol industry.
Their comments came as Stirling University launched an independent alcohol strategy, setting out ten recommendations to tackle the harm caused by excess drinking in the UK. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Prof Hastings and Dr Sheron highlighted new research conducted for the European Commission which showed the extent to which alcohol advertising was being seen by children.
The Rand Corporation, which conducted the work, found that 10 to 15-year-olds in the UK saw 10 per cent more alcohol advertising on TV than their parents. When it came specifically to the advertising of alcopops, the youngsters saw about 50 per cent more.
The analysis was unable to draw conclusions about exposure to alcohol messages on digital and social media, but it noted that young people were the heaviest users of such forums and alcohol marketers were exploiting these opportunities.
The experts said that this commercial activity was harming children.
“Alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol,” the editorial said.
Prof Hastings and Dr Sheron added: “We have to assume that drink advertisers are not deliberately aiming their campaigns at children, but internal documents do show that they are enthusiastically targeting the profitable group of young people aged between the minimum legal drinking age and 21.”
They concluded: “Our children urgently need protection from alcohol marketing.”
Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “This action is very welcome but needs to go further.
“In developing this strategy, we considered the best available evidence about appropriate policies and interventions that are needed both to reduce drinking levels in individuals and reduce the damage to families and communities that alcohol can cause.
“The report provides a blueprint for action, now and in the future.”
But Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “Consumers have made it very clear: They are opposed to minimum unit pricing. Not everyone who looks for value in their shopping is a binge-drinker.
“The Government should look at locally-targeted solutions [such as] better education.”
Steps towards a more responsible society
• A minimum price of at least 50p per unit of alcohol should be introduced for all alcohol sales.
• At least one third of every alcohol product label should be given over to an evidence-based health warning.
• The sale of alcohol in shops should be restricted to specific times of the day and designated areas.
• The tax on every alcohol product should be proportionate to the volume of alcohol it contains.
• Licensing legislation should be comprehensively reviewed.
• All alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be prohibited.
• An independent body should regulate alcohol promotion, including product and packaging design, in the interests of public health.
• The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration for drivers should be reduced to 50mg/100ml.
• All health and social care professionals should provide early identification and brief alcohol advice to their clients.