MPs give "serious consideration" to only letting alcohol ads run in cinemas for certificate 18 films

The Commons health select committee is looking into whether event sponsorship by alcohol companies should be banned, it has been revealed in a report.

The MPs are also giving ‘serious consideration’ to the idea of only allowing adverts for alcohol brands to be aired in cinemas for certificate 18 films, or making it so such adverts can only be aired when there will be 10 per cent or less of viewers under 18 in a screening.

The report states: “There is known to be a link between advertising and people's alcohol consumption, particularly those under the age of 18. Some countries have introduced a complete ban on alcohol advertising (Norway) or a ban on TV advertising with other controls (France) to tackle this. So far we have not seen evidence demonstrating that a ban is a proportionate response but we are determined to minimise the harmful effects of alcohol advertising.

The Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling said in the report: “The promotion of alcohol is extremely widespread and young people in particular are inundated by pro-drinking messages. This advertising has been shown to have a direct effect on both the age at which drinking starts and the amount consumed - reducing the former and increasing the latter.

“Despite this evidence, there are no proposals in the strategy to reduce the amount of alcohol advertising, or even to introduce a degree on independence into the regulatory process. Instead it is business as usual, with an industry driven focus on content regulation - and approach which lacks any evidence base and has been shown to fail. Nowhere is this complacency more apparent than with online advertising, which the strategy treats as a mere extension of current promotion.

“In reality it completely changes the landscape, with young people not just being marketed to, but being recruited as a peer to peer brand advocates, unwittingly feeding marketing campaigns with their personal details and generating their own promotional content. How, for example, can the current regime of content controls deal with this last phenomenon? And the talk in the strategy of better age restrictions on digital marketing is simply fanciful. Digital marketing has to be treated much more seriously.”

However, the Portman Group suggested that the marketing impact on young peoples' drinking behaviours is likely to be outweighed by other factors, such as family environment, peer behaviour and socioeconomic status.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, said in a statement: “We welcome the Select Committee’s view that the majority of people enjoy alcoholic products responsibly and that alcohol producers and retailers are vital partners in helping to tackle the harms caused by misuse. We also fully support the recommendation that locally led alcohol partnerships provide the best solution to tackle local issues.

“Whilst we are pleased the Committee commends the Responsibility Deal approach, it is deeply disappointing that they have failed to understand the significance of the innovative unit reduction pledge, supported by all major producers, retailers, and leading wholesalers who have committed to lower the alcohol content of leading brands, and introduce new ranges of lower alcohol products.”

The BBPA added: “The UK has some of the tightest restrictions on the marketing of alcohol in the world, particularly designed to avoid exposing children and young people to alcohol advertising. The large decline in youth consumption over the period that self-regulation has been in place serves as proof that alcohol advertising is not encouraging children to consume alcohol.

“Research into the link between advertising and alcohol consumption remains inconclusive, and many studies have found no correlation. For example, a study by Gerard Hastings at the University of Stirling found no association between awareness of alcohol marketing at age 13 and either the onset of drinking, or the volume of alcohol consumed two years later.”

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