Concerns raised over alcohol advertising
More needs to be done to restrict the advertising of alcohol to children and young people and to regulate the growing problem of online adverts, experts have said.
There are now around 1,900 groups dedicated to one alcoholic product alone on the Bebo social networking site, which is popular among school-age children, said Mr Tobias Paul, a commissioner from the Scottish Youth Commission on Alcohol.
“One of the groups already has over 30,000 members, but this is currently an unregulated area that is not covered by the existing framework, “said Mr Paul.
He told delegates, at the Westminster Forum conference on alcohol in London yesterday, that he had also seen alcoholic drinks being advertised on billboards outside of a school.
Caroline Flint MP, the former Public Health Minister and chair of the conference, added that she was becoming increasingly concerned about the number of adverts for alcoholic products that were being played in cinemas before films that attracted a large number of children in the audience.
Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE, agreed that the advertising of alcohol to children needs to be looked at and pointed to the recent NICE guidance on preventing hazardous and harmful drinking which contains a number of recommendations to tackle the problem of alcohol advertising and children.
The recommendations were developed after evidence showed that alcohol advertising is associated with the onset of drinking among young people and increased consumption among those who already drink. All of the evidence suggests that children and young people should be protected as much as is possible by strengthening the current regulations.
The NICE guidance recommends that the current advertising regulations should be strengthened to minimise children and young people's exposure to alcohol products.
A complete ban on alcohol advertising should also be considered to protect these high-risk groups even more, as is the case with tobacco products.
The guidance also recommends other changes to the environment in which alcohol is sold. NICE says that alcohol should be made less easy to buy by reducing the number of outlets selling alcohol in a given area or the days and hours that it can be purchased, and that applications for new licenses to sell alcohol should be based on the number of outlets in a given area, the proposed business times and the potential impacts on crime, disorder and alcohol-related illnesses and deaths.
A minimum price for a unit of alcohol should also be introduced to help tackle the rise in problem drinking in Britain, says NICE.
Earlier at the conference, Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, had stressed the importance of tackling the environment in which alcohol is sold.
“We can't frogmarch people out of the off-license. We need to have a better understanding of what makes us drink too much and better commissioned services are needed. We need to re-focus our resources on what works, and do something about the demand. We can't simply focus on supply alone.”
She added that alcohol-labelling needs to be improved so that people can make informed decisions, and that reviews on tax and pricing would report in the autumn.
Professor Vivienne Nathanson, Director of Professional Activities at the British Medical Association (BMA), warned that urgent action was needed to tackle alcohol misuse, a problem that affects 25 per cent of the population.
“There could be an explosion in the number of people requiring liver transplants in the coming years. In the past you would only see people over the age of 50 with cirrhosis of the liver, but now people in their twenties are developing it.”
9 July 2010
This page was last updated: 09 July 2010