Children more familiar with ‘beer than biscuits’

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Primary school children are more familiar with beer brands than leading makes of biscuits, crisps or ice cream, according to a new report from Alcohol Concern. Ninety-three per cent of ten and 11-year-olds surveyed recognised Foster’s lager – more than McVitie’s, McCoy’s or Ben & Jerry’s – while nearly 80 per cent also recognised the characters ‘Brad and Dan’ from the brand’s TV adverts.

Half of the children also associated ‘official beer’ sponsor Carlsberg with the England football team, with children who used social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram having the greatest recall of alcohol brands.

‘Whether findings from this study indicate that alcohol industry marketing targets younger people or not, it is clearly making an impression on children,’ states Children’s recognition of alcohol marketing. ‘The high number of children that correctly recognise alcohol marketing across different promotional channels, including TV and sports sponsorship, suggests that the existing regulatory framework is insufficiently protecting younger people.’ The charity is calling for cinema alcohol advertising to be restricted to 18 certificate films, along with the phased removal of alcohol sponsorships.

The research illustrated ‘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’, according to the charity’s head of policy, Tom Smith. ‘Children get bombarded with pro-drinking messages when they turn on the TV, go to the cinema or walk down the road, and the existing codes are failing to protect them,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Irish government has signed off on a new range of measures to curb alcohol misuse, which includes minimum unit pricing. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 also contains proposals to restrict advertising, legally regulate sports sponsorship and require the inclusion of health warnings and calorie counts on labels. The UK government shelved plans to introduce a minimum price in 2013 (DDN, May 2013, page 4) while Scottish proposals are still subject to legal challenges from the drinks industry.

‘This legislation is the most far-reaching proposed by any Irish government,’ said health minister Leo Varadkar. ‘For the first time alcohol is being addressed as a public health measure which makes this a legislative milestone. It deals with all of the important aspects that must be addressed including price, availability, information and marketing. Most Irish adults drink too much and many drink dangerously. This has an enormous impact on our society and economy.’

Children’s recognition of alcohol marketing at www.alcoholconcern.org.uk

General scheme of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 at health.gov.ie