BMA attacks trade over advertising

The British Medical Association has once again attacked the drinks industry and said alcohol advertisements should be vetted more rigorously by watchdogs.

Two articles appearing in the latest British Medical Journal criticise alcohol advertising and the Portman Group.

In a separate editorial Trish Groves, BMJ deputy editor, has called for a clampdown on alcohol promotions and a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, has written that self-regulatory controls for advertising are “failing” after analysing a sample of internal marketing documents from four alcohol producers and their communications agencies.

Hastings was instrumental in bringing in the ban on tobacco advertising and tighter restrictions on high-fat food advertising.

The documents were made available as part of the House of Commons Health Select Committee alcohol inquiry and included client briefs, media schedules, advertising budgets and market research reports from Beverage Brands, Diageo, Halewood and Molson Coors.

Hastings said despite a ban on encouraging drunkenness and excess, he found many references to “unwise and immoderate” drinking, “suggesting increasing consumption is a key promotional aim”.

The reports also call for sponsorship to be covered by the regulations, and “much greater scrutiny” for digital media.

Particular efforts should also be made to protect children from alcohol advertising, they claimed, such as banning billboards and posters near schools and restricting TV, radio and cinema ads.

David Poley, Portman Group chief executive, said: “We are proud of the regulatory system for alcohol in the UK, which is admired across the world.

“Gerard Hastings trawled through thousands of pages of internal company marketing documents on behalf of the Health Select Committee.

“He failed to find any evidence of actual malpractice and therefore resorts to slurs and innuendos.

“We wish Gerard Hastings would publish his criticisms in an advertisement. The ASA could then rightly ban it for being misleading.”

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