Young children are more familiar with alcohol brands than some food brands, new research has revealed.
A survey of ten and 11-year-olds in the north east revealed 49 per cent had tried alcohol, with children who used social media and watch TV after the watershed more likely to have tried drinking.
A total of 98 per cent recognised the Fosters lager brand, with 78 per cent recognising Smirnoff and 67 per cent WKD, compared to 85 per cent for McVitie’s, 91 per cent for McCoys and 84 per cent for Ben & Jerry’s.
Campaigners are now calling for stricter alcohol marketing regulations to protect children and young people.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the north east alcohol office, said: “It’s no surprise that schoolchildren are so familiar with alcohol brands when the alcohol industry spends around £800m a year on marketing its products.
“Evidence shows that exposure to alcohol promotion in the UK normalises drinking for young people and encourages them to drink at younger ages and in greater quantities.
“We need to see stricter regulations put in place to protect our children from this level of exposure to alcohol.
“The first step in a phased approach should see a ban on TV alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed to reduce the number of children in the viewing audience.
“Support for a ban of this kind is at an all-time high here in the north east with almost three in four people backing the measure in a recent survey.”
Balance, Alcohol Concern, Alcohol Focus Scotland, and Drink Wise are calling for alcohol advertising to be restricted to factual information in adult press; alcohol advertising on TV only on after the 9pm watershed; cinema advertising for 18 certificate films only; and in the longer term a phased ban on alcohol sponsorship of professional sports, music and cultural events and branded merchandise.
Professor Gerard Hastings, founder of the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling and member of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “This research shows that alcohol marketing is clearly making an impression on our children. Existing evidence shows that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to start drinking at an earlier age and to drink more.
“As the RBS 6 Nations kicks off with Guinness as its ‘official beer’, thousands of children across the UK will once again see alcohol associated with a major sporting event.
“Alcohol companies claim only to advertise their products to adults, but children are consuming the same media and taking in the same pro-alcohol messages as adults.
“We will be pressing the Government to take effective action to make sure children are not regularly exposed to marketing messages for an adult product which causes so much damage to health and society.
“We know the public share our concerns; more than two thirds (69 per cent) agree that alcohol advertising appeals to under 18s, and more than half (58 per cent) supported restrictions on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events.”