Wales to Bump Booze out of Media?


"liquor-table" courtesy of octal on Flickr

Alcohol companies in Wales spend 800 million Euros annually for marketing, and some groups in Wales are concerned about the message that this sends to youth, and how it could influence rates of binge drinking. To address the issue, Alcohol Concern Cymru is recommending regulated alcohol price increases, that producers be prohibited from sponsoring sports teams, and that their advertisements be banned from television and radio where the proportion of under-18 viewers or listeners is at least 10% of the audience.

And Health Minister Lesley Griffith agrees that the government should enact heavy restrictions, saying, “We would like to see the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol, and we also believe the advertising of alcohol should be much more restricted, with consideration given to a complete ban.”

In Wales it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 consume alcohol, the exception being that someone over 18 can order a beer or a glass of wine at a restaurant for someone who is at least 16. (Click here for more information about alcohol laws in the UK.)

Countries throughout Europe have banned certain aspects of alcohol marketing, but Alcohol Concern Cymru seems to be steering Wales into the footsteps of France, which has some of the strictest regulations in Europe. There you won’t find a single alcohol ad on television or the internet, and alcohol producers are forbidden from sponsoring sports teams.  In Sweden, advertising is only allowed for class 1 drinks, which mostly just includes light beer.

The United States seems to be less concerned about alcohol marketing, which is not regulated by government, although television advertising of tobacco products is prohibited by law. The reason for the lack of government regulation is perhaps due to careful self-regulation by the industry. As a standard, alcohol ads are not placed in media where more than 30% of the audience is below the legal drinking age, which is 21 years old.

Not everyone agrees that stricter regulations are necessary—certainly not the alcohol industry. The Portman Group, an association of some of the largest alcohol producers in the UK, thinks that alcohol marketing regulations are sufficient and sufficiently enforced, and believes that targeting advertising is misguided. “We have to get past this myth once and for all that exposure to alcohol marketing causes children to drink,” a Portman Group spokesperson said, adding that youth alcohol consumption in Wales is no higher than it’s been in the past. In fact, she claimed that official figures have shown “levels of alcohol consumption and misuse have been in decline in Wales for at least five years and this has been achieved without any intervention on price or availability.”

The Portman Group has launched several responsible drinking campaigns in the past, including providing 5 million Euros annually to the independent charity Drink Aware. Links to the Drink Aware website are included on all advertisements published by members of the association.

Co-written by Olivia Marsh.