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Health campaigners call for tougher regulation of alcohol adverts

Campaigners are calling for stricter alcohol marketing regulations to protect children and young people after research has found that primary school aged children as young as 10 years old are more familiar with beer brands, than leading brands of biscuits, crisps and ice-cream.

The research also found half of children associate their favourite football teams and tournaments with the beer brands they are sponsored by, with 1 in 2 children associating Carlsberg beer with the English national football team.

The survey of English and Scottish children – which asked about recognition of alcohol brands, alcohol sponsorship, TV and social media use, and whether they had tried alcohol – also found that:

  • Half of children (47%) associate Carlsberg beer with the English national football team: Carlsberg is the ‘official beer’ sponsor of the England team
  • Almost six in ten boys associate Chang beer with Everton football club: the club shirt sponsor (47% overall)
  • Brand recognition of Foster’s lager was particularly high (93%), ranking above McVitie’s, McCoy’s and Ben & Jerry’s
  • Four in five (79%) children recognised the Foster’s characters “Brad and Dan” from the TV commercial
  • Children who use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had greater recall of alcohol brands and were more likely to have consumed alcohol themselves
  • In Scotland almost half of children (47%) and 60% of boys correctly associated Carling beer with the Scottish national football team: Carling sponsored the Scottish Football Association until 2014
Alcohol Concern, Balance North East, Drink Wise and Alcohol Focus Scotland are now calling for alcohol advertising to be restricted to factual information in adult press, the phased removal of alcohol sponsorships, cinema advertising only to be allowed for 18 certificate films and a TV watershed. At the same time brand new research from the Alcohol Health Alliance shows high public support for better protection for children and young people from alcohol marketing.

  • 84% of the public believe alcohol advertising in cinemas should only be shown if films have an 18 certificate •74% support a ban on alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed to reduce the number of children in the viewing audience
  • Two thirds (69%) agree that alcohol advertising appeals to under 18s •More than half (58%) support restrictions on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events

Tom Smith, Head of Policy at Alcohol Concern, said: “This research shows just how many of our children are being exposed to alcohol marketing, with an even bigger impact being made on those children with an interest in sport.

“Children get bombarded with pro-drinking messages, when the turn on the TV, go to the cinema or walk down the road, and the existing codes are failing to protect them. “We also know the public share our concerns which is why we need urgent action from the government to make sure tighter regulations on alcohol advertising are implemented.”

Professor Gerard Hastings, founder of the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, said: “This research shows that alcohol marketing is clearly making an impression on our children. Existing evidence shows that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to start drinking at an earlier age and to drink more.

“As the 6 Nations rugby kicks off with Guinness as its ‘official beer’, thousands of children across the UK will once again see alcohol associated with a major sporting event.”

Responding to calls from Alcohol Concern, Balance North East, Drink Wise and Alcohol Focus Scotland to restrict alcohol advertising, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said:  “This research demonstrates beyond all doubt the very real impact that alcohol marketing has on children and young people. It is morally wrong for huge multinational organisations to be targeting our children and young people in such a way.

“The alcohol industry spends millions of pounds on advertising to promote their brands and create new consumers. Independent evidence has shown that exposure to alcohol marketing leads people to drink more and from a younger age. Quite simply, if marketing didn’t work and if it didn’t benefit shareholders, the industry wouldn’t spend money on it.

“The AHA has compelling evidence that the public largely support restrictions on advertising, particularly where children and young people are concerned. More than 8 in 10 people believe that alcohol advertising should only be permitted in films with an 18 certificate. It’s time for politicians to listen to the general public and to take action”.