Scottish charity urges alcohol ad ban

Alcohol Focus Scotland is urging the Scottish Government to curb alcohol marketing to protect children – despite a drop in underage drinking in Scotland.

The charity wants all alcohol adverts removed from the streets and public transport, and says alcohol sponsorship of sport, music and cultural events should be phased out – to prevent alcohol companies reaching small children.

It also advised restrictions on TV ads promoting alcohol between 6am and 11pm, that cinema alcohol advertising be limited to 18-certificate films, limiting alcohol advertising in newspapers and magazines to publications aimed at adults and curbing alcohol marketing on social networking sites.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said, “An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option, yet we allow alcohol companies to reach our children from a young age.

“They are seeing and hearing positive messages about alcohol when waiting for the school bus, watching the football, at the cinema or using social media.

“We need to create environments that foster positive choices and support children’s healthy development.”

More than 30 organisations, including Children 1st, the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and the medical Royal Colleges, along with 72 MSPs, have pledged their support to end alcohol marketing in childhood.

Alison Douglas added, “We hope Ministers will respond to this report and the groundswell of support for effective alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland.”

The charity also recommends the government set up an independent task force on alcohol marketing to remove the regulatory role of the alcohol industry.

But are these measures really necessary?

A report last year by Institute of Alcohol Studies shows that underage drinking in the UK is in long-term decline.

It found that 38% of 11-15 year olds in England had tried alcohol in 2014, down from 61% in 2003, with similar drops in Scotland.

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) mirrored the SDD findings, with drinking among 13 and 15 year olds peaking in 2002, and the decline accelerating between 2010 and 2013.

The Scottish SALSUS survey also indicated that children of all levels of deprivation were less likely to drink in 2013 than in 2010.

In the March edition of DRAM, Editor Susan Young writes, “What is currently being done is obviously working. You can’t help feel that alcohol is an easy target these days.

“And although Alcohol Focus Scotland was asked by ministers to facilitate an international expert group on alcohol marketing to advise on the most effective policy options available and how they might be implemented in Scotland, they failed to include any representatives at all from the alcohol industry.”

She concluded, “Their report also recommends setting up an independent task force on alcohol marketing to remove the regulatory role of the alcohol industry. More jobs for the anti-alcohol boys me thinks?”

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