Creating customers: Finding new ways and places to sell alcohol, and new people to buy it

English | Cymraeg

8 September 2014

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Note: This report was funded and/or written by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Executive summary

In spite of its persistent claims that it has no interest in driving up alcohol consumption, the drinks industry’s own documents make clear that this is in fact one of its main business aims. This is the case in the mature European and North American alcohol markets, and even more so in the countries described by SAB Miller as “developing markets...[where] per capita alcohol consumption continues to rise as disposable incomes increase” – namely Africa, Asia and Latin America. In these all-important newer markets, the industry pursues a two-fold strategy of making some drinks cheap enough for all but the poorest to afford, whilst also pushing its premium brands as status symbols for the emerging middle class.

To allow itself the space to do this, the industry has argued for minimal regulation by government, and has even worked to overturn restrictions imposed by national governments for reasons of public safety. Alongside this, the industry defines its own responsibilities to prevent the abuse of its products in the narrowest possible terms, with a great emphasis placed on the duty of consumers to drink responsibly.

To address the issues raised in this report, Alcohol Concern recommends the following controls be implemented in the UK, and we would also suggest that the principles embodied in them have a wider international relevance.

Recommendation 1

The regulation of alcohol promotion should be statutory and independent of the alcohol industry, and meaningful sanctions for noncompliance should be in place.

Recommendation 2

Where the promotion of alcohol is permitted, messages and images should only refer to the characteristics of the product: its origin, composition, strength, and means of production. Use of lifestyle images of drinkers or scenes depicting a drinking atmosphere should be prohibited.

Recommendation 3

Given the obvious conflict between the alcohol industry’s need to promote the use of alcohol and the need to promote moderate drinking, alcohol producers should have no role in formulating information or policy relating to the safe use of their products. Messages about the safe use of alcohol should be drawn up by a body independent of the industry, and should be factual in nature and avoid ambiguous concepts such as “responsible drinking”.