Alcohol advertising needs tighter restrictions to limit the â€œconstant bombardmentâ€ at celebrations such as Christmas and sports events, MPs and health experts have warned.
An Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) report found that the marketing of alcohol at special events made it difficult for those who were addicted or in recovery to fully participate in everyday life and could trigger relapse.
The report, titled No escape: How alcohol marketing preys on children and vulnerable people, also noted that children were regularly exposed to alcohol marketing and demonstrated high levels of brand awareness.
A 2019 survey of more than 2,500 young people funded by Cancer Research UK found that four in five (82%) of 11 to 17-year-olds had seen alcohol marketing in the past month.
Some 42% of the age group had seen alcohol adverts on social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.
The AHA, which represents more than 60 non-governmental organisations, is calling on the Government to take urgent action to protect those in recovery, as well as children, from overexposure to alcohol marketing.
The Health and Care Bill plans to introduce advertising restrictions such as a 9pm watershed for â€œless healthy food or drinkâ€ advertising on TV and the prohibition of online campaigns at the end of 2022.
However, alcohol is not included in the plans.
AHA chairman Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: â€œThe constant bombardment of alcohol marketing is a significant contributor to alcohol harm in the UK.
â€œThe glamourisation of a harmful product creates a culture where alcohol is seen as an essential part of everyday life. With deaths linked to alcohol at record highs, we are in desperate need of a new approach.
â€œThe Government must now introduce comprehensive marketing restrictions in both real-world and digital spaces to ensure that vulnerable adults and children are protected from alcohol advertising and its harm.â€
Susan Laurie, who has been in recovery for seven years, said: â€œChristmas is the season when the adverts for alcohol are relentless. They convince us that alcohol is an essential part of the festivities.
â€œSupermarkets also push discounted alcohol and will have special offers that are designed to make us buy more and more drink. Trying to maintain sobriety is difficult at the best of times, but at Christmas alcohol is absolutely everywhere, and this can have devastating consequences â€“ as it did for me.â€
Malcolm Clark, cancer prevention policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: â€œThe findings are both clear and concerning: alcohol marketing reaches children, builds brand awareness, and influences their perception of alcohol. Itâ€™s time for governments across the UK to introduce and enforce restrictions on pervasive alcohol advertising across multiple media platforms, including sponsorships and those targeting young people.
â€œWe also have the backdrop of the pandemic, when high-risk drinking was up by 64% in people from lower socio-economic groups. To close the inequality gap, significant new public health funding, including for alcohol treatment services, is urgently needed.â€
Christian Wakeford, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, said: â€œThe current self-regulatory alcohol marketing system is failing to protect our children and vulnerable adults from exposure to alcohol advertising.
â€œRestrictions for tobacco advertising have been in place for many years, and stricter requirements have been proposed for junk food advertising. Like alcohol, these products can cause harm to our health. Alcohol should be no exception. We need to ensure alcohol marketing regulations are entirely independent of the industry and are effective to protect the most vulnerable in our society.â€
Shadow public health secretary Alex Norris said: â€œAlcohol continues to hurt too many individuals, families and communities across our country. This report is another reminder that we need to do more to stop and prevent this harm.
â€œWith deaths linked to alcohol now at record highs, the Government must urgently introduce a series of preventative measures to decrease harmful drinking. This should include comprehensive controls on alcohol marketing, as recommended by both this report and the World Health Organisation.â€
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