Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Three quarters of Scots back new controls to help protect children from alcohol advertising

New research released today suggests that the Scottish public want to see government do more to protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing.

Newly published findings from YouGov[1] asked the public whether they would support measures to limit the exposure of children and young people to alcohol advertising.

The poll of Scottish adults found:

  • 75% of Scots support controls to limit the exposure of children and young people to alcohol advertising
  • 68% of people support stopping alcohol adverts from being shown on TV before 9pm
  • 71% of people support only allowing alcohol advertising in cinemas for films with an 18 certificate
  • 51% of people support not allowing alcohol advertising in outdoor and public spaces such as streets, parks and public transport

In June the UK Government announced plans to stop junk food advertising online and before 9pm on television from 2023, but alcohol products are not covered by these controls.

The Scottish Government has previously committed to consult on measures to restrict alcohol marketing to protect children and young people given the extensive evidence that exposure to marketing increases alcohol consumption.

Alcohol use is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15 to 49-year-olds worldwide[2]. Just recently the National Records for Scotland published figures showing that deaths caused by alcohol had increase by 17% in 2020 yet little has been done to limit the promotion of alcohol despite this being one of the key recommendations by the World Health Organization to reduce alcohol consumption.

Advertising serves as a way to normalise alcohol consumption and have it seen as part of everyday life from a young age. Research[3] has found that 82% of young people recalled seeing at least one form of alcohol marketing in the last month.

Studies have shown that alcohol marketing is causally linked to alcohol use among young people, including starting to drink at an earlier age or engaging in riskier consumption[4].

The Alcohol Health Alliance and members, including Alcohol Focus Scotland, are calling for the Scottish and UK governments to introduce restrictions on alcohol marketing to protect children and vulnerable people.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said, “Alcohol companies invest billions of pounds a year in marketing their products but despite an ever-growing evidence base that exposure to alcohol marketing is a cause of drinking onset and binge drinking, the current system of self-regulation is failing to protect our young people.  

“The figures released last week on the high number of deaths from alcohol in Scotland underline the need to redouble our efforts on prevention in line with what works – increasing the price, limiting the availability and restricting the marketing of alcohol. This new polling shows that the Scottish public support controls to reduce alcohol marketing to protect our children and young people. Children’s Parliament investigators aged 9-11 years old have also called for action to remove adverts and to make alcohol less visible.[5]  Now it is time for the Scottish Government to respond by introducing comprehensive restrictions on alcohol marketing, in line with World Health Organization recommendations."

Dr Nathan Critchlow, Academic Fellow at the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University, said: “Alcohol marketing regulation is an important topic of debate, both in Scotland and internationally. Several countries in Europe already have strict controls on where alcohol can be advertised and what advertising is allowed to say, while Ireland are in the process of implementing a range of new restrictions and the Scottish Government plan to consult on whether to introduce new controls. Although tobacco and alcohol are not identical products, the impact of various UK Government restrictions on tobacco marketing on youth smoking rates are plain to see, so it is logical that restrictions on alcohol marketing may be similarly effective.”


31 August 2021



[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1021 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th February to 18th March 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).

[3] Critchlow N, MacKintosh AM, Thomas C, et al Awareness of alcohol marketing, ownership of alcohol branded merchandise, and the association with alcohol consumption, higher-risk drinking, and drinking susceptibility in adolescents and young adults: a cross-sectional survey in the UK BMJ Open 

[4] Sargent, J.D. & Babor. T.F. (2020). The Relationship Between Exposure to Alcohol Marketing and Underage Drinking Is Causal. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, S19, 113-124

[5] “It’s all around you, all the time” Children’s Parliament investigates: an alcohol-free childhood for Alcohol Focus Scotland, September 2019 /media/310889/childrens-parliament-investigates-an-alcohol-free-childhood-for-alcohol-focus-scotland-online-.pdf