Reducing harm caused by alcohol


First Minister commits to reduce children’s exposure to alcohol marketing

The First Minister Humza Yousaf has signed up to support a joint campaign from Alcohol Focus Scotland, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and BMA Scotland.

In a new video the First Minister acknowledges that children and young people in Scotland have a high level of awareness of alcohol brands, and that this exposure to alcohol marketing can lead to them drinking.

He said, “The Scottish Government is fully committed to improving public health and reducing the health risks faced by young people. When we improve the welfare of children in Scotland we make a positive difference for generations to come. So I fully support the campaign to reduce children and young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing.”

The support comes following the publication of the Scottish Government’s analysis of the consultation on alcohol advertising and promotion where Drug and Alcohol Policy Minister, Elena Whitham committed to further consultation on the topic.

International evidence shows that alcohol marketing increases the likelihood that children and young people will start to drink alcohol or, if they already drink alcohol, drink more and at problematic levels.

Throughout the consultation, Public Health and Third sector organisations were consistently in favour of restrictions on alcohol advertising and promotion. While those with a commercial interest in promoting and advertising alcohol were mostly against the introduction of restrictions.

FM w AFK board

Welcoming the commitment from the Scottish Government, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “It is encouraging to see that the First Minister recognises the evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing causes harm to children and young people and is personally committed to action to protect them. This comes off the back of the Scottish Government’s announcement last week that it will consult on specific proposals to restrict such marketing. With a shocking 25% increase in alcohol deaths since 2020 Scotland needs to be doing all it can to prevent future health problems.

“Scotland is behind the curve. Many other countries already have a range of restrictions on alcohol marketing and some, like Norway and France, have been in place for many years. More recently, Ireland has introduced restrictions on displays in shops, advertising at public transport stops and stations and at sporting events, with further measures planned for next year. Scotland can and must do more to protect children and young people and people with or at risk of an alcohol problem, who are particularly vulnerable to alcohol marketing, as well as addressing how marketing normalises drinking.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of SHAAP, commented, “We are pleased that the First Minister is committed to protecting children and young people from alcohol marketing, which we know influences consumption and harms.

"SHAAP encourages the Scottish Government to act on the wide body of international evidence and introduce a comprehensive set of marketing restrictions around alcohol promotion in sports, in public spaces, and in the retail environment. 

"Far too much of our daily lives is shaped by the alcohol industry and it is time for the Scottish Government to take decisive action to create a Scotland that puts the wellbeing of its people, especially our younger generations, first."

“We should build on our reputation as a world leading country in alcohol policy."

Justina Murray, CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, said: “We welcome all measures to tackle Scotland’s Alcohol Everywhere culture, including restrictions on alcohol marketing. The families we support describe alcohol as being ‘in your face, no matter where you look’. This harms whole families – children, young people and adults. Being exposed to alcohol marketing is traumatic for our families, whether their loved ones are actively drinking, in recovery (where they constantly fear relapse), or where their loved ones have died through alcohol. Families want to live in a Scotland where Alcohol Free Spaces are the norm for our families and communities, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Ewan Carmichael, youth activist said, “Many young people feel manipulated by the tactics used by the alcohol industry including the use of bright colours or ‘fun’ flavours, and linking alcohol products to energy drinks, which primarily appeal to those under-18-year-olds.

“The Scottish Government needs to consult directly with young people, and work with them collaboratively to not only legislate to restrict alcohol marketing, but to support those experiencing harm. I am hopeful that the new round of consultation in 2024 provides these seats for young people at the table.”

Find out more about the campaign