01 March 2017

Why Children Need to be Protected from Alcohol Advertising

Here in the UK, alcohol abuse is a common problem and one that often results in the need for alcohol rehab. However, most adults are unaware of the dangers of alcohol, and many do not see it as harmful in any way. The fact that it is a legal substance and one that is widely acceptable and encouraged in social situations means that most people cannot comprehend the link between alcohol and various health problems.

With such attitudes to alcohol, many believe that more should be done to highlight the dangers to ensure that the public is fully aware. Others believe that there should be tighter regulations on alcohol advertising, particularly where children are concerned. In fact, a new report has suggested that children are exposed to ‘unacceptably high levels’ of alcohol marketing.

Exposure to Alcohol Marketing

According to Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS), there is clear evidence to suggest that exposure to alcohol marketing at a young age can lead children to experiment with alcohol. The organisation is now calling for the Scottish Government to do something about this issue.

The Scottish Government is already in the process of trying to tackle problem drinking and has been through a lengthy court battle to get its proposed minimum alcohol unit price passed. Minister for public health and sport Aileen Campbell said, “This is an interesting contribution to the debate on alcohol policy in Scotland, and we will consider it carefully. We’ve been clear that more should be done to protect children from unsuitable advertising. However, the regime governing broadcast advertising is reserved to Westminster, and as a result, we have pressed the UK government on this issue.”

Ban on Adverts

AFS wants alcohol advertising to be banned in various locations such as on public transport, in sports grounds and on the streets. It also wants a ban on alcohol advertising at music events, and of sponsorship of sporting events. It is also hoping the Government will consider restrictions on the advertisement of alcohol on social media and in newspapers. In addition, the organisation is hoping for a restriction of alcohol advertising on TV to the hours between eleven at night and six in the morning as well only being allowed at 18 rated films in the cinema.


The report by AFS involved experts in the field of alcohol marketing, public health and legislation, and the campaign is being supported by the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network, the medical Royal Colleges and Children 1st. There has been a recommendation that an independent task force is set up.

Part of the expert group, Professor Gerard Hastings said, “Self-regulation does not work; it will not control dishonest banks, over-claiming MPs or profit-driven multinational drinks companies. Yet we continue to rely on it to protect our children from alcohol marketing. It is no surprise that study after study has shown that, as a result, children are being put in harm’s way – and that parents want policymakers to be more courageous. Scotland now has a chance to grasp this nettle and show how independent statutory regulation of marketing can provide our young people the protection they deserve.”

Alcohol-Free Childhood

Chief executive of AFS, Alison Douglas said, “An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option, yet we allow alcohol companies to reach our children from a young age. They are seeing and hearing positive messages about alcohol when waiting for the school bus, watching the football, at the cinema or using social media. We hope ministers will respond to this report and the groundswell of support for effective alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland.”

Safeguarding Children

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner, said, “I strongly support this report, which provides clear evidence on the nature and reach of alcohol marketing, and makes welcome and sensible proposals to safeguard our children. All children and young people have the right to good health, and that must include the right to grow up free from commercial pressures to drink alcohol. The extent of the actions we take now are a good measure of the value we place on our children for the future.”

Catalyst for Action

Inequalities spokesperson for Scottish Labour, Monica Lennon said, “Reducing children’s exposure to unhealthy alcohol marketing is pivotal to improving public health. It was disappointing that the SNP government rejected proposals by former Scottish Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson in the last parliamentary term that would have banned alcohol advertising near schools. SNP ministers must get on with the job of refreshing Scotland’s alcohol strategy, and the recommendations in this report should act as a catalyst for action.”

Avoiding the Need for Alcohol Rehab

Studies have found that early exposure to alcohol may result in some people developing an alcohol addiction in later life. This means they will more than likely require a programme of alcohol rehab in order to recover. However, without early exposure, many children may avoid alcohol until they are older and thus avoid the need for alcohol rehab should they develop a problem with alcohol.

Source: Children exposed to ‘unacceptably high levels’ of alcohol marketing (BBC)

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