Reducing harm caused by alcohol

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Alcohol brands and young people

A new report published by Cancer Research UK explores the views of 13-18 year olds on alcohol marketing, and finds that alcohol adverts appeal to young people and influence their choices. Brands with brightly-coloured packaging and drinks with high levels of added sugar were found to be particularly attractive to young people.

Youth engagement with alcohol brands in the UK (pdf)

Key findings from youth focus groups:

  • Young people indicated that some alcohol brands were better known, better regarded and consumed more frequently by young people than other brands.
  • Brands with brightly coloured packaging and with high levels of added sugar were seen as particularly attractive. Drinks that tasted of fruit or sweets were seen as actually masking the taste of alcohol which was appealing.
  • Ciders were consumed to relax and high strength spirits were used to get drunk.
  • Gender, age and social class played a role in the way young people responded to different brands. For example. some drinks were seen as beginner's drinks that thirteen year olds would drink (fruit drinks, single serve pre-mixed cocktails) and others were perceived to be what their grandparents would drink (whisky, gin, wine etc.)
  • Price and accessibility play a role in what products young people buy. Value for money in terms of the products’ ability to get you drunk was in some cases a key consideration.
  • Some ciders appealed to both genders, while beer was more appealing to boys, and pre-mixed vodka more appealing to girls.

The report’s authors say that alcohol advertising laws need to be reviewed, in order to reduce youth drinking in the UK. The authors say, in particular, that advertising rules need to account for the rise and popularity of social media, where children are now being exposed to alcohol adverts.

Commenting on the report, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said:

"There is strong evidence to show that exposure to children of alcohol advertising leads them to drink sooner and in greater quantities. It is worrying that children are being exposed to so many marketing messages that glamourise and encourage drinking. Children that drink alcohol are more likely to suffer a range of negative consequences including problems at school and being at greater risk of violence and injury.”