Intended for healthcare professionals


Government launches campaign to cut alcohol related deaths

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 19 October 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:825

Government ministers are launching a high profile advertising campaign in England to try to reduce the amount of injury and death among young people caused by binge drinking.

Embedded Image

How the Department of Health promotes safer drinking

Credit: NHS

The £4m (€6m; $7.4m) initiative, run jointly by the Department of Health and the Home Office, will target 18 to 24 year olds who drink heavily. Department figures show that 48% of men and 39% of women in this age group drink over the limit of what is considered safe.

The public health minister, Caroline Flint, said: “In England it is estimated that 5.9 million people drink to get drunk. Males and females aged 18 to 24 are our priority in this campaign, as they are the most likely to drink irresponsibly.

“The ‘Know Your Limits’ campaign will support the actions that the government is taking to tackle the problem of alcohol related harm, and we hope it will help create a culture where drinking responsibly is the norm.”

The advertisements have also been designed to appeal to a slightly younger age group, as research indicates that illegal drinking, including binge drinking, is also increasing in this age group.

Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “This launch is really important. If we can start to change young people's drinking patterns, there is a chance that we may begin to turn the tide of escalating cirrhosis deaths that we are currently seeing in people in their 30s and 40s.”

The campaign will start on television on 16 October and will then be rolled out across cinemas, radio, magazines, and online throughout November. It will illustrate what can happen when drunk youngsters fall from high scaffolding, stumble into busy roads, or get into fights.

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, which lobbies on behalf of the drink industry, said: “Drinks companies have no wish to see their products misused by binge drinking young adults. We therefore warmly welcome this government campaign, which complements the educational work already carried out by the industry.”

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: “We think that this is a genuinely important initiative. Advertising can be effective if it is highly targeted in this way.”

He warned, however, that advertising alone would not achieve the desired reductions in alcohol consumption, and he said that the drinks industry itself may have to make more concessions.

“We think, for example, that there are irresponsible pricing strategies. There are issues about the easy availability of alcohol. We'd like to see a more grounded and broad understanding of what makes young people drink,” he said.

View Abstract