TV alcohol advertising ban proposed

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The Independent Online

A bid to impose a total ban on alcohol advertising on television has been launched in Parliament.

The legislation, proposed by GP and Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, would also prevent alcohol brands being used to sponsor sporting and cultural events.

Under her plan to limit children's exposure to alcohol marketing, tightly controlled advertising would only be permitted in certain circumstances with a blanket ban on all other promotion.

Dr Wollaston (Totnes) has cross-party backing for her move, but critics labelled it an extension of the "nanny state".

Proposing her Alcohol Marketing Bill in the Commons, she said: "Around 13 young people will die this week as a result of alcohol and around 650 this year.

"Nearly a quarter of all deaths of young people aged 15-24 are caused by alcohol."

There was "carnage" in accident and emergency departments and young lives were blighted as a result of alcohol, she told MPs.

"This Bill aims to reduce the exposure of children to the harmful effects of alcohol marketing by actually setting out what advertisers are allowed to say and where they can say it.

"So rather than the current confused cocktail of statutory legislation and self-regulatory codes, let's switch to something that actually works."

The Bill, drawing on French restrictions, would allow alcohol advertising in print media aimed at adults, radio after 9pm and films with an 18 certificate.

She added that pubs and clubs would be allowed to display adverts as well as traditional producer events "so it wouldn't penalise West County cider makers or Scottish distilleries".

Where adverts were allowed they could only make "factual, verifiable statements" such as "alcoholic strength, composition, place of origin".

Every advert would also carry an advisory message about responsible drinking and health.

Dr Wollaston said: "Any other marketing or promotion not specifically permitted would therefore be banned.

"This would therefore include television, social media, youth-certified films.

"It would specifically prevent the growing threat from viral phone marketing, from ploys such as advergames on the internet where so-called games are a cover for alcohol marketing."

She continued: "The industry will claim that these measures would kill off sport and culture and that advertising is only designed to persuade people to switch brands.

"They made the same claim before the tobacco advertising ban.

"But I would point out that France has managed a World Cup and European Cup without any help from alcohol sponsorship."

The Bill was given a first reading without a vote, but stands little chance of making progress due to a lack of parliamentary time.

It was opposed by Tory Phil Davies (Shipley) who told MPs it was "clearly an attempted extension of the nanny state".

He added: "It is simply gesture politics to try and appease the health zealots in this country, most of whom can't be appeased anyway."

Mr Davies said enforcement of laws banning the sale of alcohol to under-18s and greater education about the health dangers was a better way forward.