A CHARITY and a group of international experts are calling on the Scottish Government to introduce statutory restrictions on how alcohol is marketed in a bid to improve people’s health in Scotland.

Alcohol Focus Scotland says alcohol marketing causes alcohol consumption and the public is being bombarded by adverts which normalise and encourage alcohol consumption at the expense of our health.

It says children and young people, and those with or at risk of an alcohol problem are particularly affected and that introducing a ban on marketing in all areas where there are powers to do so – including outdoor advertising, and sport and event sponsorship – would significantly reduce people’s exposure to alcohol marketing.

In a new report, the experts warn that the high visibility of alcohol marketing means we are constantly bombarded with positive messages about how drinking can enhance our lives.

Marketing has become increasingly sophisticated, they say, and more difficult to avoid as alcohol companies invest millions of pounds in seeking to build long-term relationships between people and their brands.

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But Alcohol Focus Scotland says more than a quarter of people are drinking at levels that place our health at increased risk, and in 2020 deaths from alcohol jumped to the highest level since 2011.

The charity said: “The Scottish Government has taken bold steps to protect public health in the past but if it is serious about tackling this public health emergency it cannot stop there”. The group’s recommendations include: lIntroducing statutory restrictions on alcohol marketing activities where it has powers to do so, including outdoor and public spaces, the sponsorship of sports and events, branding of merchandise and in print publications lEnsuring such restrictions explicitly include all forms of brand marketing, such as identifiable fonts, straplines or colours, not just brand names lMaking sure that alcohol displays and promotions in shops are only visible to those planning to browse or purchase alcohol lMandating the display of health information on all alcohol packaging Alcohol Focus says 48% of people in Scotland support a ban on all alcohol advertising, with higher levels of support than opposition. Previous polling showed (62%) of people support restricting advertising, sponsorship and promotion online and in outdoor and public spaces.

The charity says new research shows some groups – particularly children and young people and people with or at risk of an alcohol problem – have increased susceptibility to alcohol marketing.

Tom Bennett, a member of the alcohol marketing expert network, is in long-term, abstinent recovery from an alcohol problem and has also a worked with people in treatment and recovery settings.

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He said: “Alcohol marketing can be massively triggering. It’s designed to be. Seeing an image of a cold beer on a warm sunny day or a midwinter glass of whisky in front of an open fire can be highly appealing. Yet the message these images convey, that alcohol is life enhancing, is at odds with the health risks.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “The current self-regulatory approach to alcohol marketing is failing to protect people and has led to our communities being wallpapered with promotions for a product that harms our health. We only need to think of how easily we recognise brands simply from a distinctive colour or font to realise how powerful marketing is.

“Children and young people tell us they see alcohol everywhere, all the time. People in recovery talk of how marketing jeopardises their recovery. But all of us are affected and this has to change.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “I welcome this report from an international group of experts and will study carefully its detailed findings and recommendations.

“I am determined to tackle the harm-ful impacts alcohol marketing can have on children and young people, as well as the triggering effect it can have on heavy drinkers and those in recovery. We intend to consult on a range of potential alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland later this year.”