Ban on booze ads is music to my ears

By on 12/06/2013 in Blog

Max Vaughan from Birmingham Public Health gives his verdict on today’s calls to ban alcohol advertising at music and sports events.

If you’ve caught the news today, you may be aware of calls from Alcohol Concern to ban alcohol advertising at music and sports events to protect young people from excessive exposure to the marketing messages.

My very simple reaction is: About time too. But this is a big issue and deserves a more detailed response. So I’ll elaborate.

Reading this report from the BBC, what struck me most was the following paragraph:

Ian Twinn, from Isba which represents advertisers, told BBC Radio 5 live there was a lack of well-researched evidence to show that advertising influenced young people to drink alcohol.

Really?! So the huge amount of money spent on advertising at sporting and music events - attended by many young people – is in no way intended to sell booze to a new audience? What exactly is it for then?

Big sport and music events often attract younger age groups and the advertisers, who spend vast sums on research, fully understand the type of people attending (including age, spending power etc) and respond with the appropriate campaigns.

So I think it's naïve to think that the advertisers of alcoholic drinks are not considering how they appeal to their next generation of consumers. As the Alcohol Concern research demonstrates, the advertising of alcohol certainly penetrates younger people demonstrated by their brand recognition abilities.

Mr Twinn also pointed out that:

'underage drinking is declining in this country, where we have alcohol advertising, and in France it is going up, where they’ve banned it.'

But that only tells you part of the story. Yes, nationally fewer young people are consuming alcohol, but those young people that do drink are consuming more with more dangerous and worrying drinking patterns.

In Birmingham for example, our substance misuse support services are seeing alcohol and cannabis as the drugs of choice as opposed to other substances.

So, in addition to addressing that consumption, it is a sensible approach to look at how advertising is targeting new customers to boost shareholder profits, leaving the rest of society to pick up the pieces.

Now of course I must be a 'killjoy' and this is of course the 'nanny state gone mad'. Why don't I just leave people to it and let them have a good time?

In moderation, I could not agree more. But here in Birmingham, as in most towns and cities, alcohol related issues represent a major public health challenge.

The damage caused by alcohol misuse includes:

  • At peak times, up to 70 per cent of all admissions to accident and emergency departments in Birmingham are related to alcohol;
  • 3,600 incidents of domestic violence (around a third) are linked to alcohol misuse;
  • Up to 170,000 working days are lost through alcohol-related absence, costing the city's economy about £30 million each year;
  • About 20,000 children in Birmingham are affected by parental alcohol problems;
  • Marriages where there are alcohol problems are twice as likely to end in divorce;
  • In 2009, half of all 11 to 15-year-olds in the city had already had an alcoholic drink;
  • Parental alcohol misuse has been identified as a factor in more than 500 child protection cases.

So this is an issue that we must collectively address and if supporting the Alcohol Concern campaign makes me a killjoy, that's fine by me.

If you're worried about alcohol use - either your own or that of someone you know - there's lots of advice here: http://www.mylife4me.co.uk/

For face to face support please call 0300 5555999 , where you will be directed to the service that will best meet your needs.

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