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Alcohol advertising in the European Union

There are a variety of national restrictions and controls across Europe and mixtures of the statutory and the self-regulatory marketing systems. In terms of EU-wide legislation, this began with the Television Without Frontiers Directive (TWF) which was originally issued in 1989, has been incorporated into national laws. This was designed to harmonise regulations so that cross border transmissions would not contravene national regulations.

The current EU Directive 2010/13/EU on the coordination of laws and regulations concerning the provision of audio visual media (the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)), sets out criteria that commercial communication (television advertising, teleshopping, sponsorship and product placement) of alcohol and other commodities must comply with. These include that television advertising and teleshopping of alcohol must not be aimed at minors or depict minors drinking; it must not link alcohol with enhanced physical, sexual or social performance; and it must not encourage immoderate consumption. Such regulation will continue to apply to Britain until such time as the country leaves the European internal market.

Many concerns have been raised with the AVMSD adopted in 2010, including the strength of the guidelines, an over-reliance on industry self-regulation, the exclusion of sponsorship and product placement as alcohol advertisement, and the movement of alcohol advertising across borders and regulatory environments (for example, advertising which is illegal in Sweden being broadcast on Swedish channels established in the UK). In 2016, a new legislative proposal amending the AVMSD was adopted by the European Commission. The AVMSD proposal has now been sent to the European Parliament and to the Council and is expected adopted in 2017.[1]

Levels of regulation of marketing vary between Member States. A WHO European Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2010 identified 3 WHO European Region countries that had no legally binding regulations of any kind for alcohol advertising, while 14 countries had no legally binding regulations for product placement.

The main features of national regulations are summarised below.[2]


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[1] Eurocare (June 2016) “Revision of the EU audio visual media services directive (AVMSD)” Retrieved December 2016 <http://www.eurocare.org/library/updates/revision_of_the_eu_audio_visual_media_services_directive_avmsd>

[2] Just-Drinks.com (February 2004), 'Drinks advertising in the European Union'