‘IT was always easy to justify my journey with alcohol because, wherever I looked, heavy alcohol use was condoned and celebrated.”

Tom Bennett doesn’t blame alcohol marketing for causing a drinking problem he endured for 15 years, but this is how he describes the way it helped him to condone his behaviour and fuelled his unhealthy relationship with booze.

Now 45, he can still vividly recall Tennent’s adverts and the way in which they implied drinking a pint of the lager was a key part of Scottish culture.

“They were so well done, playing into Scottish nationalist tendencies, playing Caledonia, and they had this guy coming home from London,” said Bennett, who stays in Strathaven.

“The marketers are so clever and have sophisticated strategies. There were a whole host of them and they had a huge influence on me growing up.

“Alcohol marketing is an extremely powerful and convincing thing that makes us drink and, if you have a problem, it helps you to deny the problem that you have. You have this awareness you’re drinking unhealthy levels of alcohol but then the advert pops up and it suggests it’s just normal behaviour.”

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Bennett’s reliance on drink gradually got worse between the ages of 18 and 33 until he was psychologically and physically dependent on the substance.

After eventually getting vital help he insists saved his life, he has managed to stay clear of drink for 12 years, but remains on a mission to help others dealing with similar problems.

He now works for the Scottish Recovery Consortium and is on the board of Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS), contributing to its recent report calling for comprehensive statutory restrictions to be placed on alcohol marketing.

Bennett says during his recovery, alcohol adverts and the glare of beer and liquor in shops has been extremely challenging to deal with.

The National: Tom Bennet. Photo: Colin MearnsTom Bennet. Photo: Colin Mearns

He said: “It’s a huge relapse trigger [for people with alcohol problems].

“I had some really shaky moments fresh out of rehab going to get bog roll out of the shop, and there’s gin and whisky on the other side of the aisle.

“You’re going to get essentials and then you’re faced with this walk of terror because the substance that has almost taken your life is right there.

“It used to be worse but it continues to be too visible and available.

“I think we’re at a place in Britain where it’s like the 1960s of the tobacco industry.

“We’ve got no health warnings on packaging and the industry puts millions of pounds into bombarding us with these positive lifestyle messages. Self-regulation is absolute nonsense, it doesn’t work.”

Bennett wants to see the end of the stereotypical Scot on TV with a drink in their hand.

The Government has already been ambitious in attempting to tackle the issue, as Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce minimum unit pricing in 2018.

But Bennett would now like to see ministers take the next step and control alcohol marketing.

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He said: “The more restrictions we put in place, the more lives we will save and I fully endorse the recommendations in the AFS report.

“There’s barely a family in Scotland that does not have some kind of close connection with someone who has a problem with alcohol and that’s a reality we have to be honest with ourselves about.

“Scotland could really show an ambitious lead here, like we’ve done with other things. We could send out a really powerful message that we don’t need to accept the unacceptable any longer.”