Advertising is not to blame for binge drinking culture

I have much sympathy for the House of Commons Health Committee’s concerns about “the consequences of binge drinking”, but the problems of cider swilling, teenage ne’er-do-wells congregating on street corners is a much deeper societal issue than can be solved by a bit of tinkering with advertising regulation.

Booze culture: A social concern
Booze culture: A social concern

The Health Committee itself says the top issues to be addressed are over-availability and minimum pricing; with some tightening of the scope and process of existing marketing regulation, particularly around sports sponsorship.

However, some of the most effective moves in children’s food and beverage marketing recently have been self-imposed by manufacturers aiming for a “healthier” competitive edge in targeting children and their mothers. These moves have largely been in response to trends in consumer attitudes to, for example, artificial colours and sweeteners.

The drinks industry also has a history of self-regulation through the Portman Group, while the ASA/BCAP codes of practice are very specific about the protection of children and the promotion of drinking booze responsibly.

However, until it becomes socially unacceptable to spend Friday nights staggering, vomiting and urinating in high streets, then tactics such as minimum pricing, licensing restrictions and advertising restrictions will be simply temporary sticking plasters.

It is time that politicians recognise that manufacturers and advertisers are not the enemy. We have teenage children too and want to live in a healthy, happy and secure society.

Chris Collis, director, Marketing Walk

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