TV alcohol advertising ‘watershed’ called for in the UK

Protestors in Britain have called for a ‘watershed’ for alcohol advertising on TV amid claims that millions of children watched the ads during live World Cup games. Alcohol Concern UK says that children as young as four watched alcohol ads from brands such as Stella Artois, Magners, Fosters, Carling and WKD during the World Cup. The ads came up during live England games between 8pm and 10pm and were within advertising regulations. Reports suggest that 1.6 million children viewed three alcohol adverts during England's game against Algeria and 1.4 million saw four alcohol adverts during the game against the US. Other matches too garnered children’s eyes.

In another study by Alcohol Concern of 80 youngsters aged between 11 and 18 in the East Midlands, London and the North West over the summer found that the children were exposed to on average four alcohol adverts in one day or 1,600 per year. Television ranked first in such ads followed by ads in shops or supermarkets and on billboards. Girls reported more exposure to spirit and wine marketing than boys, while boys reported more exposure to cider and ‘alco-pops’.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker feels, “It is simply unacceptable that vast numbers of children are so frequently exposed to alcohol advertising, leading to higher levels of drinking among young people and increasingly higher levels of harm. Alcohol producers and advertising regulators are clearly not taking their responsibilities seriously enough and only a watershed ban on TV and an internet ban will prevent the vast majority of children from being exposed to alcohol marketing.” They are also calling for a ban on alcohol ads in cinemas other than during 18-rated films and a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports and music events.

According to Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, of the Royal College of Physicians, “The evidence is clear - children are affected by alcohol marketing. It influences the age at which they start drinking and how much they then drink. Alcohol is a drug of potential addiction and if drinks producers and retailers won't stop pushing it at our children then urgent and tough legislation is needed to protect them.”

In retaliation the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Jeremy Beadles said, “Alcohol Concern's claim that advertising of alcohol drinks leads to higher levels of drinking among under 18s is not supported by the evidence.” He cited a Stirling University study that found no link between awareness of alcohol marketing at age 13 and the onset of drinking. He went on to say, “The truth is that the marketing and advertising restrictions Alcohol Concern seeks would hit the pockets of millions of consumers and threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people working in the media, advertising and television, not to mention the drinks industry… Worse still the proposed restrictions would do nothing to address the root causes of alcohol misuse.”

The Alcohol Concern report was launched today, as part of Alcohol Awareness Week.

In a separate concern charities say that many children are at risk of neglect because of a parent's drinking. Alcohol Concern and the Children's Society feel that social workers need more compulsory training on how to deal with alcohol abuse within families. Their report estimates 2.6 million children live with a parent whose drinking could lead to neglect. Of those 2.6 million children, 700,000 are being raised by a parent defined as an alcoholic.

Bob Reitemeier, the CEO of The Children's Society, said, “I cannot stress strongly enough the harmful impact that substance abuse can have on both children and whole families - it is imperative that everyone understands these risks and we believe that education is the key…We are calling on the government to make sure that everyone who needs either training or education to deal with parental substance abuse is given the appropriate assistance.” Mandatory substance abuse training for social workers was recommended in a 2003 report from the government's own drug advisory group.

Dr Sarah Galvani, who chairs the British Association of Social Workers Special Interest Group in Alcohol and Other Drugs, also said training for both newly-qualified and existing social workers was “lacking”.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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