Department of Health rejects calls for statutory regulation of alcohol ads

The Department of Health has rejected the Health Select Committee’s call for statutory regulation of alcoholic drinks advertising and says it will continue with its policy of self regulation and education.

Drinking

However, it along with the Department for Children, Schools and Families in consultation with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have commissioned a report to review “the current evidence on potential harm to children and young people from alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship”.

The Select Committee recommended in January that the regulation of alcohol ads should be independent of the advertising and alcohol industries in a report that followed a seven-month long inquiry into alcohol misuse.

However, in the DoH’s response to the Committee’s report, Public Health Minister Gillian Merron says: “This government believes the most effective way to tackle alcohol is to educate, to make healthy choices easier, and to support those who need help.”

Merron makes no mention of the report’s recommendations on regulating alcohol promotions but does leave the door open for future action on pricing.

“We agree that price is an issue and continue to look at the issues around it but must strike a balance,” she says.

The response will calm fears in the alcohol and advertising industries that the government would implement the increased external regulation and tighter restrictions on sponsorship and advertising called for in the report.

Rae Burdon, chief operating officer at the Advertising Association, says: “We believe it’s right that the more extreme recommendations on marketing restrictions have been rejected by government as the rationale behind them was less than clear.”

The DoH says the evidence review will “seek to provide an objective view of the available evidence to inform a debate which is sometimes polarised” as well as providing a “framework for further research”.

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