Booze ad restrictions 'no use without power over internet'
CONTROLS on alcohol advertising should be extended to the internet as part of the drive against under-age drinking, a conference in Edinburgh will be told next week.
Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, claims alcohol is being actively promoted on social networking sites like Facebook. And he will tell a conference organised by the Advertising Standards Authority at Dynamic Earth on Monday that these websites represent a challenge to the current system of regulating alcohol advertising.
Mr Law quoted examples of messages posted on the official Facebook page of Smirnoff.
Mr Law said: "It's a dilemma the industry has to face up to."
Mr Law said he supported the idea put forward by the Scottish Government for a ban on alcohol advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed. But he added: "We would raise questions about whether that is so relevant, now that you can access TV programmes at any time of the day."
He said it was the internet where the most urgent challenge lay.
The event on Monday, to be hosted by former Culture Secretary Chris Smith, now Lord Smith and chairman of the ASA, is to discuss the effectiveness of the current regulation of alcohol advertising.
The audience will include policy makers, alcohol concern groups, consumer bodies, trade and industry representatives and members of the general public.
The current code on drinks ads says they must not link alcohol with sex, social success or daring behaviour; show alcohol being handled irresponsibly; or depict people who appear to be under 25.
As part of its proposed plan to tackle alcohol misuse, the Scottish Government has proposed a ban on drinks ads on TV before the 9pm watershed and a similar ban on alcohol advertising in cinemas for films with a certificate below 18.
The Government discussion document said there was evidence that drink advertising increased levels of consumption and encouraged pro-alcohol attitudes, especially among young people.
A spokesman for the ASA said the authority's remit did already partially extend to the internet, covering paid-for advertising such as pop-ups and banner ads, as well as sponsored links.
But he said Mr Law was raising a significant issue by pointing to loopholes in controlling alcohol promotion on the web.
He said: "Ultimately, this is where the regulatory battleground is happening."
But he said the industry was discussing the issue.
A Facebook spokeswoman said: "For advertisers, Facebook has policies and restrictions in place for alcohol, gambling and tobacco advertising. In the limited cases where Facebook allows such advertisements, it requires that they are restricted to those of the appropriate legal age."
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