British children more exposed to alcohol promotion than adults: Experts call for urgent changes

March 1, 2013, University of Southampton

Children in Britain are more exposed to alcohol promotion than adults and need much stronger protection, warn experts on BMJ website today.

In an editorial to coincide with publication of the UK's first independent strategy, Professor Gerard Hastings at the University of Stirling and Dr Nick Sheron at the University of Southampton argue that urgent changes to Britain's "flawed" are needed to provide much stronger protection for .

A new analysis conducted by the Rand Corporation for the European Commission shows, for example, that 10-15 year olds in the UK see 10% more on TV than their parents do. Even more shocking, when it comes to the specific sector of alcopops, they see 50% more.

RAND's analysis was unable to draw any sensible conclusions about relative exposure via digital and social media, the corporation did note, however, that young people are the heaviest users, and alcohol marketers are exploiting the resulting opportunities with enormous energy.

That this commercial activity is harming children is beyond dispute, say the Hastings and Sheron. Indeed, findings from 13 peer reviewed studies on the impact of alcohol marketing on young people were absolutely clear cut: "alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol."

Yet this deeply regrettable state of affairs is completely predictable, they argue.

They point to the voluntary commitment made by the drinks industry - restated most recently in October 2012, a month after the new analysis was published - to restrict its advertising to media that "have a minimum 70% adult audience."

The so called 70:30 split is based on the share of the US population above the legal drinking age of 21, but has been applied generally around the globe, with a ratio of 75:25 in the UK.

However, the authors explain that in the UK only 21% of the population is under 18, and of these 5% are infants, so the voluntary guidelines allocate these children an audience share of 25% even though they comprise only 16% of the population. "The RAND study shows that this is delivering exactly the result that would be expected: children are more exposed than adults," they say.

The Rand analysis also suggests two further conclusions. Firstly, the disproportionately high exposure of children to alcopops advertising cannot be explained simply by the regulatory system; deliberate targeting must also be at play.

"We have to assume that drink advertisers are not deliberately aiming their campaigns at children, but internal documents do show that they are enthusiastically targeting the profitable group of aged between the minimum and 21," write Hastings and Sheron, who is also a consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital.

The danger that "such neatly targeted campaigns will spill over into younger groups" is also clear from the analysis, they add.

Secondly, digital media "are tearing up the communications rule book" they say, resulting in marketing that is "simultaneously more powerful and less controllable."

"Our children urgently need protection from alcohol marketing," they conclude. "Voluntary codes and partial measures have all too obviously failed, and digital media is set to multiply the resulting harm."

Central to this week's strategy recommendations is a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, they add. "The Rand report confirms that such a step is long overdue."

Explore further: Majority of states fail to address youth exposure to alcohol marketing

Related Stories

Majority of states fail to address youth exposure to alcohol marketing

May 1, 2012
Reducing youth exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing is a missed opportunity for states to improve public health, according to a new review of state alcohol advertising laws from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and ...

Online tool estimates youth exposure to alcohol ads on radio

April 10, 2012
A new online tool from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determines the extent of exposure to radio alcohol advertisements among young people ages 12 to ...

Alcohol abuse could kill around 210,000 people over the next 20 years, academic warns

February 21, 2012
A University of Southampton academic has warned the UK is on the ‘potential tipping point’ in the war against alcohol abuse and says failure to reform alcohol laws will result in 210,000 avoidable alcohol-related ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.