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, says Alcohol Concern.

In a major new report titled Stick to the Facts, the charity claims that self-regulation of alcohol advertising 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 the findings of the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council [YAAC], a group of young people from across England and Wales who review alcohol advertising aimed at their age group against the key principles of broadcasting rules for promoting content, as set by the Advertising Standards Authority [ASA].

The YAAC group has made 13 complaints to the ASA about alcohol adverts since August 2011, of which only three have been upheld, leading to the withdrawal of content. Seven complaints have been rejected, two investigations are currently pending, and one article was found not to fall under UK jurisdiction.

In the meantime, despite the Government’s Alcohol Strategy acknowledging evidence of a link between exposure to alcohol advertising and consumption young people under 18 years of age, recent research published by OFCOM shows that children see more alcohol adverts compared to five years ago (an average of 3.2 alcohol adverts per week in 2011 compared to 2.7 in 2007).

Alcohol Concern also sets out five recommendations for regulating the future advertising of alcohol:

  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.

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.”

To view the full report, visit the Alcohol Concern website.