Children are the future. We all want children to grow up to be healthy adults who achieve their full potential. But harm caused by the alcohol industry is an obstacle to this. Heavy marketing of alcohol products exposes children to its harm. And governments have an obligation to protect people and communities, especially children and young people, from such harm.
The Scottish government is considering placing more common sense limits on alcohol advertising in order to better protect children. Speaking to Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) at Holyrood’s Health Committee in early May, Scottish Public Health Minister Maree Todd said she found the current levels of alcohol advertising “deeply troubling”. Minister Todd wanted to reduce the attractiveness of alcohol products. In this regard, a consultation is set to begin on a number of proposals to limit alcohol advertising and reduce the attractiveness of alcohol in Scotland in the autumn.
Alcohol marketing exposure of children and youth is linked to subsequent alcohol use, including binge use and alcohol problems
We know that there is a direct link between exposure to alcohol marketing and children and young people drinking alcohol, and this can increase the likelihood that they will drink in ways that can be risky or harmful in later life,” said Maree Todd, Scotland’s Public Health Minister as per The Scotsman.Maree Todd, Public Health Minister, Scotland
Evidence shows there is a close link between children and youth alcohol marketing exposure and subsequent alcohol use and other harms.
- Exposure to alcohol ads is directly linked to subsequent alcohol use by children.
- A systematic review of 13 longitudinal studies, following more than 38,000 young people, found that exposure to media and commercial communications on alcohol is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to consume alcohol, and with increased alcohol use amongst those that are already consuming alcohol.
- Seven longitudinal studies published since 2008 found significant associations between exposure to, awareness of, engagement with, and/or receptivity to alcohol marketing at baseline and initiation of alcohol use, initiation of binge alcohol consumption, alcohol use in the past 30 days, and/or alcohol problems at follow-up.
Early alcohol use is a threat to the healthy development of children and young people
Early alcohol use, including binge use, can cause significant harm to children’s development and wellbeing. Since the human brain develops until the age of 25, alcohol consumption poses a developmental risk to children and youth, concerning the development of cognitive and intellectual capacities.
- Kids who began consuming alcohol before the age of 15 were 5.6 times more likely to report having alcohol use disorder in the past year as adults.
- The younger children and adolescents are when they start consuming alcohol, the more likely they will engage in behaviors that harm themselves and others.
- For example, frequent binge alcohol users are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including using other drugs, having sex with six or more partners, and performing poorly in school.
- Compared to those who take up alcohol use after the age of 21 – the legal age limit in the United States – young people who begin consuming alcohol before age 15 are,
- 12 times more likely to suffer unintentional injuries,
- 7 times more likely to be in a motor vehicle crash, and
- 10 times more likely to have been in a physical fight, due to alcohol, according to U.S. data.
- Teens hospitalized for alcohol-related injuries are more likely to die within 10 years.
Scottish Public Health Minister ready to protect children from alcohol advertising and calls on the support of other ministers
I personally find this deeply troubling and I’m determined to cut down on the volume of alcohol advertising and promotion that young people see,” said Maree Todd, Scotland’s Public Health Minister as per The Scotsman.
I also hope I can count on support from across Parliament to tackle the harmful impact of alcohol marketing when the consultation launches,” added Minister Todd.Maree Todd, Public Health Minister, Scotland
It is important that governments think of and protect the rights of children and young people to grow up in a healthy and safe environment. That means an environment free from alcohol products and alcohol marketing which constantly tries to recruit children and youth as consumers.
Minister says more data needed to uplift Scottish MUP
Another measure that protects children and young people, as well as adults with or at risk of alcohol problems, is the Scottish minimum unit pricing policy (MUP). The historic MUP came into place in 2018 after a long-drawn-out legal battle with Big Alcohol. Since its adoption, there has been a significant reduction in alcohol use in Scotland.
Civil society actors have been calling for increasing the current 50p MUP to 60p to account for inflation. The MUP was delayed by six years due to the alcohol industry legal challenge and during that time inflation has eroded this rate. Increasing the MUP to 60p would match the alcohol floor price to the inflation rate and ensure continued public health gains from MUP.
However, Minister Todd has said they are awaiting more robust data before any increase in the MUP rate.