Intended for healthcare professionals


Alcohol marketing to children

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 24 March 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1767
  1. Gerard Hastings, director 1,
  2. Nick Sheron, head of clinical hepatology2
  1. 1Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling and the Open University, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
  2. 2Division of Infection, Inflammation and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK
  1. gerard.hastings{at}

A new UK private member’s bill provides a simple, clear, and effective way forward

A private member’s bill on alcohol marketing to be put forward by Sarah Wollaston on 30 March tackles two pressing and uncontested problems: the excessive drinking of young people and their massive exposure to alcohol advertising.

The most recent European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs (ESPAD) of 35 European countries shows that only Denmark and the Isle of Man have higher levels of binge drinking and drunkenness in schoolchildren than the United Kingdom.1 In 2008, 2843 deaths occurred in 15-24 year olds in England and Wales, and almost one in four (23%) of these was attributable to alcohol2; that is, more than 600 deaths—almost two a day—significantly more than the combined toll from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease in this age group. In addition, alcohol is linked to antisocial behaviour, unwanted pregnancies, and sexually transmitted disease.3 Alcohol marketing not only facilitates these problems but also seems to suspend critical analysis: the ESPAD survey asked schoolchildren to rate five positive aspects (such as “feel happy,” “feel relaxed,” and “forget my problems”) and six negative aspects of drinking (such as “harm my health,” “do something I would regret,” and “get into trouble with the police”). UK schoolchildren reported the highest positive and least negative expectations for drinking alcohol of any country in Europe.1 4

The Cabinet Office estimates that £800m (€920m; $1300m) is spent on alcohol marketing each year,5 far more than …

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