SPECTRUM responds to Scottish Government consultation on alcohol marketing

SPECTRUM’s response recommends a complete and comprehensive ban on alcohol marketing in Scotland in order to prioritise public health and protect the population.

09 March 2023

Alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges in the country – alcohol is responsible for nearly 1 in every 15 deaths in Scotland. There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating the impact of alcohol marketing on consumption, including higher-risk drinking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified restricting alcohol marketing as one of its ‘best buys’ – the most successful and cost-effective measures recommended by WHO to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm.

The recent Scottish Government consultation sought views on restrictions to alcohol advertising and promotion in Scotland.

Extensive exposure

We are all regularly exposed to alcohol marketing, including those who are most vulnerable to its effects, such as young people and those in recovery from alcohol problems.

The SPECTRUM response highlights the multi-faceted marketing strategies used by the alcohol industry – from TV and print advertising, to digital channels like websites and social media, to the sponsoring of sports teams and events – all with the aim of increasing sales whilst normalising alcohol as an everyday product with minimal, or no, negative consequences.

Comprehensive restrictions needed

The SPECTRUM response recommends a complete and comprehensive package of restrictions in order to protect citizens in Scotland from the extensive exposure to alcohol marketing which exists today.

The Scottish Government should take action to restrict the marketing of unhealthy commodities where it can by introducing statutory restrictions on alcohol marketing activities in all areas of its competence.

This includes prohibiting alcohol marketing within outdoor and public spaces, sponsorship of sports and events, branded merchandise and advertising in print publications, as well as restricting all digital alcohol advertising.

The response also highlights that restrictions should cover no and low alcohol products, which often brand-share with alcoholic drinks, featuring identifiable alcohol brand markings.

Scotland should also seek to support new legislation to restrict the marketing of unhealthy products at a UK level, and push for the UK Government to go further where possible.

Spotlight on industry tactics and narratives

Unhealthy commodity industries are known to have attempted to delay, dilute or exploit regulations related to public health policy with many well-documented examples. The SPECTRUM submission highlights these tactics and provides evidence-based counter arguments to common industry narratives against restricting advertising of unhealthy products.

The submission also stresses the importance of statutory regulation to ensure codes are complied with, highlighting the ineffectiveness of self-regulatory and co-regulatory measures for regulating advertising of unhealthy commodities.

Related links

Read our submission in full | SPECTRUM response: Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion

Scottish Government consultation | Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion

SPECTRUM blog | Capturing the consultation process: industry tactics and arguments