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12/06/2013

Alcohol industry should stick to the facts says charity calling for major shake up of alcohol advertising

Alcohol Concern UK has just published a new report Stick to the Facts calling for a major shake up of the regulation framework to achieve a better balance between public health concerns and commercial freedoms

Source: Alcohol Concern UK

Immediate changes to the way alcohol is advertised, backed up by a complete ban on advertising at all sporting, cultural and music events, are needed to protect children and young people from excessive exposure to alcohol advertising, according to the charity, Alcohol Concern.

In a major new report, Stick to the Facts, the charity claims that self regulation isn’t working. It says that high levels of alcohol brand recognition amongst children, increasing exposure to alcohol advertising among young people and numerous examples of inappropriate advertising content show the failings of the current system.

The report follows work by the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC), a group of young people from across England and Wales who review alcohol advertising, making complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) when they feel content is irresponsible.

Alcohol Concern is making five recommendations to overhaul the way alcohol is advertised. Among them, it wants to see restrictions on the content of adverts, only allowing messages and images which refer to the characteristics of the product such as ingredients, origin, composition and means of production. It would mean that the promotion of ‘lifestyle’ images of drinkers or scenes which glamorise drinking would be banned.

It’s also calling for a complete ban on alcohol advertising at sporting, cultural and music events. It’s a move already made in France where rugby’s Heineken cup is known as the H cup.

Eric Appleby, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern said:

“Children and young people are seeing more alcohol advertising than in the past and are better able to recognise alcohol brands than those of cakes or ice cream. This has to be a wake-up call to the fact that the way we regulate alcohol advertising isn’t working.

“Young people tell us that they think alcohol advertising sends a message that it’s cool and normal to drink, often to excess.

“It’s time we reset the balance between commercial and public interest. That’s why we want advertisers to stick to the facts alone and for alcohol advertising to be banned at sporting, cultural or music events.”

Commenting on the report Professor Gerard Hastings, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research University of Stirling and the Open University said:

“This is a welcome and exciting move by Alcohol Concern: our young people need protecting from the alcohol industry’s insidious and persistent advertising practices.”

The report also claims that alcohol advertisers are actively exploiting weak rules, particularly around digital and internet advertising. It points to the ineffectiveness of the ASA’s reactive approach to dealing with complaints and a failure to apply the spirit of the rules in full. It says it’s time for an independent regulator with the power to investigate infringements proactively and to hand out meaningful deterrents, such as fines.

Speaking about the current regulatory code on alcohol advertising, Stuart O’Reilly, a 19 year old member of YAAC, said:

“The code is clearly unfit for purpose. Young people are bombarded with adverts that may not explicitly state, but often heavily imply, messages about alcohol that are inappropriate or misleading. This can be extremely damaging to young people who use these messages to form their relationship with alcohol.

“YAAC’s work is frustrated by the ASA’s lengthy investigation process and its limited remit, which enables alcohol advertisers to constantly push the boundaries with very little consequence to themselves.

“We need urgent change to ensure young people’s attitudes towards alcohol are not based on misinformation from those whose job it is to sell alcohol."

In its report Alcohol Concern suggests the introduction of a model similar to the Loi Evin in France but adapted to suit the UK’s social and cultural context. The measures within the law have already been road tested in the highest European courts, so a potential obstacle to implementing something similar in the UK has been removed.

In 2012 the Government accepted the evidence that there was a link between exposure to alcohol advertising and consumption, particularly in children and young people under 18. Currently, regulation allows a situation where young people are seeing even more alcohol advertising than five years ago. The sensible policy response would be to introduce measures that adequately protect those underage.

ENDS

Media Contact:

Emma Conroy, econroy@alcoholconcern.org.uk / 020 75669803 / 07415 642781

Notes to Editors

The five key recommendations are:

1) Messages and images in alcohol advertising should only refer to the characteristics of the product, such as strength, origin, composition and means of production.

2) The regulation of alcohol advertising and promotion should be statutory and independent of the alcohol and advertising industries. There needs to be a review of the way digital and online content is regulated.

3) The regulator must be equipped with the ability to levy meaningful sanctions, such as fines, for serious non compliance. It should work in a more proactive way, not depending on complaints from the public before investigating possible transgressions of the code.

4) Alcohol sponsorship and branded merchandise should be banned at sporting, cultural or music events.

5) Alcohol advertising should be banned in the trailers of films with less than an 18 certificate shown at cinemas.

  • The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC) is a group of young people from across England and Wales that meet quarterly to review alcohol advertising against key principles of the rules that regulate content, the Advertising Standards Code.
  • YAAC have complained to the ASA about 13 alcohol adverts, of which three have been upheld and seven rejected (3 others are pending or beyond UK jurisdiction).
  • The Loi Evin was passed in France in 1991 in order to control the advertising of alcohol and tobacco. It bans alcohol advertising targeted at young people and from being aired in cinemas as well as stopping the sponsorship of cultural or sporting events.
  • The 2012 Alcohol Strategy the Government recognised the relationship between alcohol advertising exposure and consumption, particularly in under-18s.
  • On May 24 Ofcom published research which shows that children saw an average of 3.2 alcohol adverts per week in 2011, compared to 2.7 in 2007. It asked the UK’s advertising regulators to review the rules that limit children from being exposed to alcohol advertising on TV.