In an article published on the British Medical Journal’s website, Hastings and Dr Nick Sheron say that a link can be made between the “clumsily imposed self regulatory codes” administered by the Advertising Standards Authority and industry body The Portman Group and the high levels of binge drinking among school kids in the UK.
They add that a lack of regulation has led to children having a “massive exposure to alcohol advertising”.
The article lends support to a private members bill to be introduced by Sarah Wollaston MP next week that calls for the introduction of statutory regulation that outlaws marketing to kids and ensures that information in ads is factual and verifiable.
The introduction of a similar law in France, the two argue “has been a key plank in that country’s effort to reduce its alcohol problems”.
Guinness maker Diageo claims that the article is full of “unsubstantiated” claims by “by two anti-alcohol lobbyists”.
“The alcohol industry works very hard to ensure that it does not target advertising to anyone under the age of 18 and there are clear measures in place to ensure this does not happen. At Diageo, like the many other industry players, we have rigorous internal codes and comply with the relevant self-regulatory promotion, advertising and broadcasting codes.”
David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, says: “We have to get past this myth once and for all that exposure to alcohol marketing causes children to drink. The UK already has some of the strictest rules in place to prevent alcohol being marketed to children or in a way that might appeal to them. The call for a French-style advertising ban is entirely unfounded.”
The article is the latest in series of spats between Professor Hastings and the alcohol industry. A 2010 report, again published by the BMJ, accused the alcohol industry of bending the existing rules on alcohol advertising.