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Charity calls for major shakeup in alcohol advertising

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alcoholAlcohol Concern, the UK's leading charity working on alcohol issues, has called for major changes to alcohol advertising in a new report published tomorrow.

The report, called Stick to the Facts, suggests that children and young people need greater protection from excessive exposure to alcohol advertising.

The proliferation of alcohol advertising has been exacerbated as companies harness social media, online video and mobile phones to advertise their products.

The report calls for a move away from alcohol adverts displaying “lifestyle images of drinkers or scenes which glamorise drinking. It claims that they should only refer to the characteristics of the products such as strength, origin, composition and means of production.

The new report also wants all alcohol advertising, sponsorship and merchandise to be banned from sporting, musical and cultural events like going to the cinema. This follows in the footsteps of The Loi Evin, passed in France in 1991, which banned alcohol advertising from being aired in cinemas as well as stopping sponsorship of cultural and sporting events.

There are also serious concerns about the current mechanism the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) deals with complaints and the rules governing alcohol advertising.

The charity has been working with their Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC), made up of 16 to 19 year olds from England and Wales, to get irresponsible alcohol advertising off television and social media. However the Advertising Standard Agency’s (ASA) long complaint progress means adverts can remain on television or online for months. This issue is compounded by the fact that the ASA refuses to investigate posts online older than three months.

Speaking about the current regulatory code on alcohol advertising, Stuart O’Reilly, a 19 year old member of YAAC, said: “The code is clearly unfit for purpose. Young people are bombarded with adverts that may not explicitly state, but often heavily imply, messages about alcohol that are inappropriate or misleading. This can be extremely damaging to young people who use these messages to form their relationship with alcohol. 

To combat this the report asks for the introduction of an independent body to regulate alcohol advertising which will also have the power to enforce meaningful sanctions and fines for serious non-compliance.

Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, Eric Appleby said: “Children and young people are seeing more alcohol advertising than in the past and are better able to recognise alcohol brands than those of cakes or ice cream.

“Its time we reset the balance between commercial and public interest."

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