Alcohol adverts 'target teenagers' despite strict code

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The Independent Online

Seven years after strict new rules were introduced to stop drinks companies marketing alcohol to children, teenagers are again being targeted, a report finds.

Research by the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council – which is co-ordinated by Alcohol Concern– warns that existing rules are not doing enough.

The group has reported the marketing of three brands to the Advertising Standards Authority: Frosty Jack's Cider, Smirnoff and Lambrini.

Emily Robinson of Alcohol Concern said: "If Government is serious about tackling binge drinking, then protecting children through full implementation of the existing codes on alcohol advertising is an obvious place to start.

"If the alcohol industry insists on bending the rules to target young people and irresponsibly sell more of their product then we need more robust regulation that prevents advertisers from creatively sidestepping the rules."

Under the code, alcohol advertising must not imply drinking alcohol is a key component of social success or that it can contribute to an individual's popularity or confidence. People shown drinking or playing a significant role in the advertising should not be shown behaving in a juvenile manner.

The group complained that Frosty Jack's YouTube channel, which had no age-restriction mechanism, contained dozens of videos likely to appeal to young people including a clip of a young person attempting to burn wasps with a deodorant and lighter.

The group objected to the Smirnoff advert set in a nightclub, and a scene in a Lambrini ad in which the message "I am what I am" was displayed within a glass being filled with the drink.

The ASA is still investigating the Frosty Jack's case but the other two were dismissed in part on the grounds that characters in the ads were not shown drinking.

Gordon Johncox, sales and marketing director at Aston Manor, which makes Frosty Jack's Cider, said the brand's website had been taken down after an internal review: "As a responsible business we are clear on the need to review activity and we strictly adhere to both the spirit and letter of current regulation concerning communication via social media channels."

Case study: 'They make us believe everyone else is drinking and it's normal'

Gabi Ohlsen, 17, is a sixth-former at Colyton Grammar School in Devon, and a member of the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council

"Some alcohol advertising is very much aimed at young people. Because of your age you can't buy alcohol in pubs or restaurants and you want to get the cheapest you can. Pubs are more stringent about checking ID than they used to be and it's easier to get it from a supermarket.

I don't drink but my friends who do, buy alcohol at a supermarket or get their parents to buy it for them. They drink it at a friend's house or a party. A lot of young people just drink to get drunk so it's more about the cost aspect, rather than mattering too much what they are drinking.

Alcohol advertising has a big impact on young people. Advertising can make us believe that everyone else is drinking and that it's a completely normal part of life. Advertising has a lot of power to change people's thinking. I don't think the rules are being enforced strictly enough".