The Scottish Government should introduce legislation to restrict alcohol marketing ‘where it has powers to do so’, says a new report from Alcohol Focus Scotland, including outdoor and public spaces, print publications, merchandise branding, and sports and event promotions.
The action is necessary to address a situation where people are being ‘bombarded by booze ads’ that normalise and encourage drinking at the expense of health, it states.
People with an existing alcohol problem – or at risk of one – are particularly affected, says the report, along with children and young people. Marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and difficult to avoid, it adds, as drinks companies ‘invest millions’ in trying to build long-term relationships with consumers. Alcohol advertising has undergone a shift from a ‘predominantly product sales model to brand marketing, with a focus on building brand identity and emotional connection with the consumer, creating a deeper, longer-term relationship’, the report states.
The restrictions would help to address the ‘social norms’ that alcohol companies attempt to create, it says – that ‘regular drinking is normal and desirable’. Any new restrictions should be extended to ‘all forms’ of marketing, it continues, including identifiable fonts, straplines and colours alongside brand names. Displays and promotions in shops should only be visible to anyone planning to buy or browse alcohol, it adds.
‘The current self-regulatory approach to alcohol marketing is failing to protect people and has led to our communities being wallpapered with promotions for a product that harms our health,’ said Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive Alison Douglas. ‘Children and young people tell us they see alcohol everywhere, all the time and they worry that adverts make alcohol seem cool and exciting. People in recovery talk of how marketing jeopardises their recovery. But all of us are affected and this has to change. People don’t just have a need to be protected from alcohol marketing they have a right to be protected. A number of other countries have already imposed bans on alcohol marketing and Scottish Government has committed to consulting in the autumn. If we want to create a more positive culture where everyone can realise their right to health, the Scottish Government must use Scotland’s full powers to restrict alcohol marketing.’
Meanwhile, the APPG for Complex Needs has published a briefing note for parliamentarians calling for urgent government action to tackle alcohol-related deaths, following increased levels of consumption during the pandemic by people who were already drinking at risky levels – particularly older, dependent drinkers with other chronic conditions.
‘Alcohol causes huge harm to individuals, families and communities,’ said joint chair of the APPG and chair of the NHS Confederation, Lord Victor Adebowale. ‘What is less well known is the strain this places on the NHS. At a time when our NHS is struggling with long waits for ambulance call outs and more people than ever presenting at A&E, we need a laser focus on preventing demand wherever possible. We urgently need a national alcohol strategy that ensures that anyone with an alcohol problem has access to support.’