Scots consult on alcohol marketing curbs

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on restricting alcohol marketing, in order to ‘reduce the appeal of alcohol to our young people’.

alcohol bottles
Alcohol marketing involves a range of channels – including branded merchandise

Marketing restrictions have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the three ‘best buys’ in terms of cost-effective measures to reduce alcohol-related harm, the government says. 

Alcohol marketing involves a range of channels – including TV, billboard and online advertising, sports and events sponsorship, and branded merchandise – and is ‘associated with an increased likelihood that children and young people will start to drink alcohol’, the government says, or drink more if they already drink. It can also influence higher-risk drinkers and act as a trigger to people in recovery. 

Among the proposals set out in the consultation are phasing out sponsorship deals, banning alcohol advertising in outdoor public spaces, and reducing in-store promotions. Marketing restrictions have already been introduced in France, Norway and Ireland, the government points out. ‘Young people in Scotland, as well as people in recovery and their families, have told us directly that they see a lot of alcohol marketing and want us to take action to tackle this,’ it states. 

Scotland currently has almost 700 alcohol-related hospital admissions per week, with rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospital stays eight times higher in the country’s most deprived areas than the least deprived. Although the introduction of MUP in 2018 hit sales of strong ciders, supermarket own-brand spirits and multi-pack deals, last year still saw Scotland record its highest level of alcohol-related deaths for 13 years, at 1,245.

Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore called the increase ‘devastating’.

‘Exposure to alcohol marketing makes children start drinking earlier and drink more,’ saidAlcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘It can also make it hard for heavy drinkers to cut down. Yet alcohol marketing is all around us – in shops, on TV and billboards, even on the shirts of our favourite sports teams. We welcome the Scottish Government’s plans to stem the tide of alcohol marketing, especially potential limits to sports sponsorship. Alcohol is a harmful and addictive product, and, like tobacco, its marketing must be restricted accordingly. The UK government should follow this example and bring in protections to stop children seeing unwanted alcohol marketing. With alcohol deaths at record high levels, we need bold action from the government to tackle this public health crisis.’

Meanwhile, 93 per cent of ambulance staff in the North East of England surveyed by Balance say that dealing with intoxicated patients is wasting valuable capacity and resources, with 40 per cent saying they’ve received threats of physical violence on at least six occasions. Just one in ten said they’d never been threatened by an intoxicated patient or member of the public while on duty. ‘The increased risky drinking we saw on the back of the pandemic is likely to lead to thousands of extra cases of disease and premature death,’ said Balance’s head of alcohol policy Susan Taylor. ‘And for 999 crews it has created additional pressure on already stretched services.’

Consultation here until 9 March.


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