Drink responsibly (but please keep drinking)

English | Cymraeg

13 April 2015

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

Introduction

“...the drinks industry, supermarkets, pubs and clubs need to work with government so that responsible drinking becomes a reality and not just a slogan.” Prime Minister David Cameron

Alcohol is a major preventable cause of illness and premature death. Each year around one million hospital admissions are linked to alcohol in England alone and, in 2013, more than 8,000 deaths in the UK were alcohol-related. It is associated with more than 60 disease conditions, including liver disease and breast cancer, and is a factor in over half of all violent crimes.

Despite being a toxic substance that can cause considerable harm, alcohol has become part of the social fabric, consumed by many of us on a weekly, sometimes daily basis; sold alongside grocery products such as bread and milk; and more familiar to many young children than brands of ice-cream and crisps. Few of us regard ourselves as big ‘boozers’ - a survey in north-east England, for example, found the majority of at-risk drinkers regarded their consumption as ‘moderate’ - yet drinking and intoxication are typically considered an essential component of a good night out, a social lubricant and a means to celebrate, commiserate, relax and have fun.

These positive expectations about the effects of alcohol are in part driven by the way it is marketed, where drinking is often portrayed as exciting, glamorous or adventurous, and where the adverse consequences of, or alternatives to, alcohol consumption are never shown. The UK public agrees that current regulation is failing to protect it from such advertising, and no wonder given there is evidence from internal industry documents that at least some alcohol companies actively seek to incorporate prohibited themes into their promotional activities.

Advertising positions alcohol as an unproblematic and appealing part of everyday life, and younger members of society are particularly vulnerable, especially those who are already showing signs of alcohol-related problems. Such advertising shapes their attitudes, perceptions and expectancies about alcohol use, which then influence their decision to drink.