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Alcohol advertising to be subjected to Government regulation?

12 January 2010

On 11th December, we reported that the BMA were seeking a total ban on alcohol advertising. But, we noted that to date, the Government had stood firm and supported the self regulation of alcohol advertising by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Well, now the Parliamentary cross-party Health Committee has called for the introduction of minimum pricing per unit of alcohol, together with tighter regulation on the marketing of alcoholic drinks.

Of particular concern are :

  1. the marketing of alcohol via sponsorship of events at which at least 10% of those in attendance would be under 18, and
  2. marketing of alcohol via online campaigns, including viral and social network marketing.

The conclusion is that these avenues are poorly regulated by the existing scheme of supervision. Proposals include a suggestion that an independent body be set up to regulate alcohol advertising. This would be a significant departure from the existing scheme of self-regulation.

Any new regulator would no doubt be looking immediately to claim a high profile “scalp.” If these proposals do go forwards, it will become more important than ever for drinks companies to ensure that they have an audit trail, to show that their product marketing is responsible and in accordance with guidelines.

Still – if by April we have a Conservative government (who would be looking to cut public spending, and boost the economy), in our opinion any “nanny state” plans such as these may, in the medium term, be substantially amended, if not shelved altogether.

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