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Doctors call for ban on TV adverts for alcohol

Thirty leading medical bodies and charities have called for a total ban on advertising for alcohol on television.Doctors call for ban on TV adverts for alcoholAn alliance of more than 30 leading medical bodies and charities says Britain’s “alcohol problem” has become so entrenched that drastic action – which would also include an end to sponsorship of sporting events – is required to protect children and teenagers.

Their submission to the House of Commons health select committee says the step is needed to tackle a growing burden on society, which costs almost 15,000 lives a year- more than four times the number of people killed on Britain’s roads.

Evidence submitted to MPs shows that alcohol has become the leading cause of deaths among young men, responsible for 27 per cent of fatalities among those aged 16 to 24.

Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), said extreme measures were required to “reset society’s norms” and protect children from marketing messages which glamorise drinking and fuel excess consumption.

He said: “We know that young people are heavily affected by advertising and marketing.  The evidence shows that when children are exposed to adverts they tend to drink at an earlier age, to drink more, and are more likely to end up developing a problem with alcohol in later life.”

Broadcast regulations state that commercials for beer, wine and spirits cannot be aired during shows watched predominantly by children.

However, many programmes which are popular with youngsters, such as sitcoms and soap operas, are free from restrictions because adults make up the majority of their audience.

If the demands of the alliance are met, they would have a major impact not just on TV advertising but also on sport sponsorship.

The Football League Cup is commonly known by the name of its sponsor, the Carling Cup, while many of England’s biggest football clubs are sponsored by beer companies.

The joint plea from 31 organisations, including the British Medical Association, the Institute of Alcohol Studies and eight royal colleges has been submitted to the health select committee’s inquiry into the Government’s alcohol strategy, which was published earlier this year.

Their paper welcomes the Coalition’s plans to introduce a minimum price per unit but says more should be done to protect children from alcohol marketing.

It proposes that Britain follow France by banning advertisements to any audience which might include a significant proportion of children and young people.

Under the French system, this means adverts for alcohol cannot be shown at all on television, and can only be shown in cinemas with films with an 18 certificate.

Meanwhile, sponsorship of all cultural activities, such as sporting events and music festivals is banned.

Sir Ian said this country needed to take the same steps. He said: “Britain’s attitude to drink has changed dramatically, so that it has become all-pervasive, always available and constantly marketed.  In terms of consumption, we need to change the norms, to get back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.”

In total, around £800 million a year is spent on alcohol and sponsorship deals in Britain. Less than one third of it is spent on television advertising, with the remainder spent on sports promotions, music festivals and internet promotions.

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