Ban alcohol advertising in public places in Scotland, report recommends

A report from Alcohol Focus Scotland and a group of international experts have said the high visibility of alcohol advertising means people are “constantly bombarded with positive messages” about the effects of drinking.

But the group has called for the Scottish Government to take further action against such marketing content, which it said had become “increasingly sophisticated and more difficult to avoid”.

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More than a quarter of Scots are drinking at levels that bring increased risk to their health, the charity says, citing research linking exposure to alcohol marketing with consumption.

Alcohol Focus Scotland have called for a ban on advertising alcohol in public and outdoor spaces. Picture: PA

The Scottish Government is being called upon to take further action in a bid to tackle the “public health emergency”.

Making in-store alcohol displays visible only to those planning to browse or purchase alcohol and mandating the display of health information on all packaging has also been suggested.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “The current self-regulatory approach to alcohol marketing is failing to protect people and has led our communities to be wallpapered with promotions for a product that harms our health.

“We only need to think of how easily we recognize brands simply from a distinctive color or font to realize how powerful marketing is.

“Children and young people tell us they see alcohol everywhere, all the time, and they worry that adverts make alcohol seem cool and exciting. People in recovery talk about how marketing jeopardises their recovery.

“But all of us are affected and this has to change.”

Recommendations put forward by the group to the Government include introducing advertising restrictions for print publications, and ensuring these restrictions include all forms of brand marketing beyond company names.

Introducing these measures would address the concept that drinking is “normal and desirable”, the charity said, and would cut the amount of exposure people in recovery for alcohol problems face.

A report published earlier this month by Public Health Scotland had suggested the country’s minimum alcohol pricing policy had not encouraged problem drinkers to consume less, but had instead prompted some to cut back on food or heating to afford rising costs.

Adverts for alcohol can foster emotions and thoughts which trigger cravings in those recovering, Alcohol Focus Scotland said.

Ms Douglas said: “People don’t just have a need to be protected from alcohol marketing – they have a right to be protected.

“A number of other countries have already imposed bans on alcohol marketing and the Scottish Government has committed to consulting in the autumn.

“If we want to create a more positive culture where everyone can realize their right to health, the Scottish Government must use Scotland’s full powers to restrict alcohol marketing.”

Maree Todd, the minister for public health, said: “I welcome this report from an international group of experts and will carefully study its detailed findings and recommendations.

“I am determined to tackle the harmful impacts that alcohol marketing can have on children and young people, as well as the triggering effect it can have on heavy drinkers and those in recovery.

“We intend to consult on a range of potential alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland later this year.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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