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Should alcohol promotion be banned?

The British Medical Association has called for a ban on alcohol promotions – is it a measure too far or a necessary curb?

Published on October 13th 2009.


Should alcohol promotion be banned?
Yes: - 38%
No: - 62%

The issue of binge drinking is back in the news once again this week, with rumours that the recent death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, could have been caused by excessive alcohol intake.

The BMA is also calling for an end to all promotional deals such as two-for-one purchases and even ladies’ free entry nights. Happy hour could soon just be like any other hour for boozers.

Whilst that rumour has not been confirmed as true, when an otherwise healthy 33-year-old passes away after a night out in a club for no apparent reason, it’s difficult not to jump to the conclusion that some form of drugs or alcohol were involved. After all, 33,000 people in the UK die from alcohol related causes each year. That’s ten times as many people as die on the roads every year, according to Drink Aware.

Acute alcohol poisoning is usually a direct result of binge drinking. Most people have experienced a binge drinking session, even enjoyed it, but few realise the amount of alcohol it takes to actually become poisoned. Science says our bodies can process about one unit of alcohol per hour. Any more than that and the levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can become dangerously high and in the most extreme cases this can lead to the heart stopping, inhaling vomit, comas, brain damage and even death.

In a bid to tackle the soaring cost of alcohol-related harm, the British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a total ban on alcohol advertising, including sports events and music festival sponsorship. On top of this, the BMA is also calling for an end to all promotional deals such as two-for-one purchases and even ladies’ free entry nights. Happy hour could soon just be like any other hour for boozers.

But do these proposals risk tarring alcohol with the same brush as other illegal drugs? After all, drinking alcohol is for many, part of our national culture and to censor it in such a way could be depriving the majority of people who don’t suffer from alcohol poisoning, their right to an enjoyable, guilt-free night out. And that night out of course includes the well-marketed new drinks, discounts, promotions and offers that go with them. You have probably even eyed up a few on this website today.


Following the lead of tough drinking laws in Ireland, the ‘Under the Influence’ report is set to shake up what it defines as a society ‘awash with pro-alcohol messaging and marketing’ in the UK.

The author of the report, Professor Gerard Hastings said: “Given the alcohol industry spends £800m a year in promoting alcohol in the UK, it is no surprise that children and young people see it everywhere – on TV, in magazines, on billboards, as part of music festivals or football sponsorship deals, on internet pop-ups and on social networking sites. All these promotional activities serve to normalise alcohol as an essential part of everyday life. It is no surprise that young people are drawn to alcohol.”

The new BMA report also renews the call for other tough measures such as a minimum price per unit on alcoholic drinks and for them to be taxed higher than the rate of inflation. However the BMA has stressed that far from being anti-alcohol, they want the focus shifted from promoting various drinks and nights out to drinking sensibly and knowing when you’re in danger. In other words, it’s time targeted marketing served the needs of public health, not the alcohol industry.

Surely something does need to be done to address the fact that between 2007 and 2008, 500 people were admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning in England every week? But is this the solution?

Advertisers are likely to say they’re being used as a scapegoat for alcohol related health problems and on the other side of the debate, the smoking ban serves as proof that, when forced, we can change our ways for the better, for good. Is it such a bad proposal when our health interests are at heart?

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47 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

EugeneOctober 13th 2009.

stop treating us like bl**dy idiots. STOP CONTROLLING US and get on with your own lives you self-righteous morons

emma graceOctober 13th 2009.

This is so unfair on the alcohol companies themselves...it's not their fault that the morons that buy their products can't control themselves! What's the next step, stopping the selling of alcohol to the mass market altogether? Orwell Orwell Orwell...when are they going to just let people accept the consequences for their actions and stop trying to wrap people in cotton wool?? It's the same with obesity and fast food, and even with that glass wall they want to put up in front of canal on canal street. If people don't want to use their brains then tough. You make your choices and accept the consequences and if the worst happens, you've no-one to blame but yourself.

ADOctober 13th 2009.

You cant half tell the BMA dont need anyone's votes proposing this one. Most of the time drunks are only harming themselves, and then its mainly their dignity that suffers so why cant we go for a little more education and a little less persecution?

DidsburyGirlOctober 13th 2009.

completely agree with the comments above, Its just one more step on the road to the Nanny State

EOctober 13th 2009.

I don't mind alcoholic drinks promotions so long as they do the same for soft drinks (I'm teetotal at the moment but it's barely worth it from an economic point of view).Eugene: who are you talking to? Or are you just screaming into the void? Unless you've discovered that ManCon are our evil overlords... the truth is out, Schofield!

AnonymousOctober 13th 2009.

Anything that results in less girls being drunk on a night out can only be a bad thing.

OOctober 13th 2009.

We shouldn't ban alcohol advertising, we should take more responsibility for our own drinking. Anyone who ends up in A&E with alcohol poisoning or fighting and blames advertising should be charged for the medical care.

EugeneOctober 13th 2009.

E:I am screaming into the wide expanse of cyber space and hoping some nitwit at the BMA/Government is listening and will take on board my comments.These idiots really should stand back and let people be. They are doing more to destroy this country than people who get p**sed all the time. I thikn the BMA need a visit themselves from the men in white coats

Anon Y MouseOctober 13th 2009.

Eugene says..“ stop treating us like bl**dy idiots. STOP CONTROLLING US and get on with your own lives you self-righteous morons”emma grace says..“ This is so unfair on the alcohol companies themselves...it's not their fault that the morons that buy their products can't control themselves! What's the next step, stopping the selling of alcohol to the mass market altogether?Eugene says..“ E: I am screaming into the wide expanse of cyber space and hoping some nitwit at the BMA/Government is listening and will take on board my comments. These idiots really should stand back and let people be. They are doing more to destroy this country than people who get p**sed all the time.So Sad, A small percentage of the Profits made on Alcohol. are spent on Advertising to make the advertisers line their pockets on the backs of the idiots who are not able to control their drinking and cost the tax payer millions of pounds in both medical and police resources because thanks to the advertisers and peoples inability to just have one or two drinks to be social people need to have 10 or twelve. More trouble is caused and heartache caused by the influence of alcohol than there ever has been by smoking. Except those callous enough to stub a cigarette into somone and that is usually as a result of having too much to drink. May be the BMA like the Police are fed up of picking up the pieces after some moron has driven with too much alcohol, Smacked his wife or her husband as a result of too much drink or has injured themselves because they are too drunk. When those in society become responsible enough to control their habits and the effect of their habbits on some one else then May be the BMA and the Police will not be called to pick up the pieces because people dont want a nanny state. If you dont want a nanny state behave like a grown up take responsibility for your actions and the need will not be there. Would you give a free reign and allow advertising for Class A or B drugs. Have you noticed how many isles just about every supermarket and corner shop gives for the sale of Alcohol, its big business with big profits on the backs of a lot of suffering by inocent people. As for Binge drinking and Drinking excessively being part of our culture it never used to be. It certainly is not taken as such by the majority.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2009.

Advertising works, guys. That's why the drinks companies spend billions on it. If we are to tackle the fact that thousands of people die due to drinking; and that the NHS is spending billions treating drinking-related illness/injury, then we have to change our binge drinking culture. Advertising normalises excessive drinking and this is what needs to be tackled. Sure, it needs to be tackled as part of a wider education programme, but it's one step. What's going on here is an attempt to stop is the cycle of binge-drinking that begins in early teens and, for some people, never stops. No one is trying to force you guys to stop having a drink or getting nicely pissed. But excessive drinking does cause harm, and not just to the people who do the drinking. As someone who has been on the receiving end of alcohol-fuelled violence, and who has also watched a loved one drink themselves to death, I heartily welcome this measure.

RobboOctober 13th 2009.

While we're at it shall we ban all car advertising - cars kill more people every year than alcohol... surely that would save more lives... ?Or course it wouldn't, people would still buy cars, only the make and model that might be different thanks to advertising!People are still idiots when they drink 10 pints of strong lager, what's the difference if that lager is Stella or Kronenberg because that's all that's going to change!

Dr David NuttOctober 13th 2009.

It's horseriding that should be banned!

DigOctober 13th 2009.

Just heard the coroners report regarding Stephen Gately's death. It had nothing to do with alcohol but they did say there was a strong link between his death and that of Ayton Senna. Apparently they both died with skid marks on their helmets.

In Loving MemoryOctober 13th 2009.

Boy George is said to be gutted, Elton John says "it's a tragic loss of one so young", and Michael Barrymore said "it wasn't me".

EugeneOctober 13th 2009.

So cigarette advertising has all but effectively been banned (apart from 'advertising' in stores where they are sold). Has everyone stopped smoking? No. Drugs aren't advertised anywhere. (You could argue they are advertised subliminally by clubs etc but thats a different issue). Anyway, has that stopped people taking them? No.Stand back for a minute and look at this objectively. How many people REALLY get drunk all the time, cause a nuisance, attack others etc etc? Agreed it's too many but I bet you its not half as many as the tabloids would have you believe. Fear = control.On another point - go to the continent. Generally speaking, alcohol promotion is allowed. Do they have the same issues and reputation as the Brits? No - in general. But they advertise their products...wonder what the answer is to that then?Whilst these are complex issues with no simple answer, what it comes down to is ...treating people like children does not solve the problem. Look at prohibition - did it work? No. Point illustrated - if a little exaggerated.

M30October 13th 2009.

I personally blame the likes of Pat Karney for this. Interfering busybodies who are intent on extering control of every aspect of our lives. Everyone knows smoking cases cancer, everyone knows too much chocolate makes you fat, excessive alcohol leads to addiction yada yada yada. It's all a question of choice. If, in these cash strapped times I want to pay £10 and drink all the alcohol I can, then it's my choice to do so.

OOctober 13th 2009.

"How many people REALLY get drunk all the time, cause a nuisance, attack others etc etc?...I bet you its not half as many as the tabloids would have you believe......" have a word with anyone who works in A&E or a copper who works town centres at the weekend. "Fear = control"... you've got paranoia issues mate.

DigOctober 13th 2009.

They should ban soaps. They're causing more of a nuisance than alcohol. Kids watching all these dysfunctional families must think it's the norm to steal, rape, fight, argue and whatever else is beamed into their brains from Soap Central. Millions of people getting hypnotised and lightly labotomised on a nightly basis. Then there's the advertising mantra break telling us what we should buy which is usually unhealthy food and alcohol to eat and drink while we're watching unhealthy tv. Most people are addicted to their cycle of shit tv and shit food as it's what they're programmed to do. Turn on, tune in, drop out.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2009.

Taking responsibility. I have no problem about you people taking responsibility. If you go out on the piss and fall drunkenly under a bus or in the Canal, or get mugged or raped (all of which happen every Saturday night). It's your responsibility not mine. I will pass by on the other side.If you have a boozy evening in front of the TV, pee on the sofa and puke on the carpet, it's you taking responsibility. If you do the same on my doorstep I will take responsibility to look after my own, and beat you head in. That is what you actually mean by taking responsibility.

ADOctober 13th 2009.

Congratulations Anon Y Mouse, you argument seems to be that alcohol causes domestic violence, street violence, road accidents etc. Alcohol is not the cause, the perpatrator (criminal) is. To suggest that Alcohol is to blame is to give people licence to do something horrible and then turn around and say wasnt my fault I was drunk. Which any right minded person would know is not the Truth. As for binge drinking its been part of this countries drinking culture for hundreds of years, take a look at hogarths etching of Gin lane for example.

hmmmOctober 13th 2009.

i'll take the one in the middle.

ADOctober 13th 2009.

Descarts I see what your saying but while alcohol affects peoples judgement most of the blame has to lie with the person, and while it does its not fair to blame alcohol advertising and ban it as that is not the root cause of the problem. As to food its too much food that makes a person fat, which is the fault of the person eating too much and not a food retailer.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2009.

I think that photos supplies a good enough reason not to ban it.

emma graceOctober 13th 2009.

Exactly AD. You can't ban something just because the CONSUMER has no limits or self restraint. To my mind, it just seems like a slippery slope. Doesn't the old saying go "prevention is better than a cure"? Banning the advertising is a lazy and easy solution (that I don't think will work anyway because lets face it, the people who cause the problems know where to get their booze, with or without a bloody tv advert). If the British Medical Association are really that concerned then surely they would put their efforts into more education about the effects of alcohol. They will be banning bananas soon because we all know how dangerous those banana skins can be...

scoteeeOctober 13th 2009.

Like other newley found drugs,I am convinced that had alchohol just been discovered, it would be outlawed without question.

DescartesOctober 13th 2009.

Oh I agree completely AD, but sadly this kind of thing will happen. The people that allowed the smoking ban to come in should be thanked for that. You give away liberties in the name of freedom and sooner or later you realise you're not so free any more.

ADOctober 13th 2009.

Smoking is a little diferent because it does harm everyone else in the room every time a cigarette is smoked, and that dammage is cumulative. however smokers should be able to have smoking lounges...

eugeneOctober 13th 2009.

O....i have paranoia issues? I notice that anxiety and mental health issues are on the rise...perhaps this is because people are constantly told what to do. Constantly in fear of something new (or old). As opposed to just living our lives.There is always some patronising 'do-gooder' who really wants to control what everyone else is doing and stop people living their lives as they see fit. Yes people are idiots and cause problems. People are anyway. That is part of life. If you continue to control and subjagate people, they will act like children and so make the matters worse.I aint paranoid O, just pissed off.

OOctober 13th 2009.

Eugene sounds like he needs a beer

Eugene does indeed need a beerOctober 13th 2009.

roll on payday

scoteeeOctober 13th 2009.

Does a pudding menu list desserts or a dessert menu list puddings?

special KOctober 13th 2009.

having seen many close friends and family destroy their lives through alcohol dependency, what really pisses me off are the purveyors of the likes of White Ligtening Cider - basically meths mixed with lemonade.....how can they get away with it? Its probably not the big advertising, but the low level corner shop promotions of 2 litre bottles of this stuff that cause most damage. For example, you need a license and lessons before you take out a car (hopefully) Whereas there are no restrictions on cheap readily available and highly intoxicating alcohol...I hate what it does to people. If we've banned cigarette adverstising, there should be no question about banning alcohol. Liver disease, brain damage, heart disease, Pancreatic diseases, dementia.......let alone the social problems of violence, drink driving, etc etcIts easy to shrug all this off and say - just be resposible - but if you become addicted / dependent, its not that straight forward.

EugeneOctober 13th 2009.

Special K huh?at least it doesn't kill in large numbers

ChrisOctober 13th 2009.

I think we should have a total alcohol ban in pubs. I'm sick of going out and having to come home smelling of beer because of all these drinkers, and it won't harm revenues because once all the drinkers have to stand outside (as long as they're not in the city centre alcohol-free zone), all us non-drinkers who've been staying away from pubs because of the menace of passive alcohol will come back with our children, knowing that they won't be at risk of getting passively p***ed and lamped by a scally, or passively s***ging some ropey slapper from Droylsden who'll look a whole lot worse at 9am next day. Do it for the children.

ChrisOctober 13th 2009.

How about this - sarcasm, duck...

emma graceOctober 13th 2009.

sorry, slightly off topic I know, but it's never stopped me before. chris, not necessarily aimed at you. just commening in general...quack

scoteeeOctober 13th 2009.

Ms G you won't be shocked to know that there's a pub in Whalley range that has smoking children serving alchohol!!!

CasOctober 13th 2009.

I think the problem with smoking in pubs is more the health and safety laws regarding staff and them having to breathe in the smoke. So a solution! That brilliant Taps place, use that idea, give it a few tweaks so you swipe your card at the pump and hey presto, a staffless pub. Smoke away.

Ropey Slapper from DroylsdenOctober 13th 2009.

Chris, you loved it.

OOctober 13th 2009.

Nice idea, Cas. Unless that is, you want a glass of wine or any other drink that isn't made of beer, then you need a member of staff to pour it for you. Bit like them self service tills in Asda, when they break down for no reason and you have to shout after a member of staff to sort it out. She's usually helping out some daft old mong though who should have avoided the self service tills altogether. Errr, smoking ban, best thing ever. Why do I want to go home from a bar smelling of smoke?

ChrisOctober 13th 2009.

You're right ropey slapper, I did. And the Penicillin Marketing Board loved it too. Sales have soared since our eyes met across a crowded Lloyds bar. Same time tonight? I'll bring vaseline...

Ropey Slapper from D-townOctober 13th 2009.

No, Chris. YOU loved it. You were crap.

emma graceOctober 13th 2009.

Scoteee...I know, I love it. But they won't serve me until I pay off my humongous bar tab :(

EugeneOctober 13th 2009.

i live in droylsden...can i get a piece of the action?

stephen gouldOctober 13th 2009.

I would suggest you would need to check the facts on “illegal drugs and legal drugs” before you propose such a question of “do the proposals risk tarring alcohol with the same brush as other illegal drugs”. There are far more social and health problems surrounding alcohol abuse including death than any other drug, whether the drug be legal or illegal. Just because the majority of people consume alcohol on a regular basis and that it is legal does not make it necessarily right especially when there are so many problems surrounding it. No wonder the NHS continuously have problems with budgets, if alcohol was to be made illegal, I think the NHS would flourish. I think that alcohol use in the UK is a major problem that needs to be tackled before it gets any worse, and that higher taxation is needed on alcohol with higher alcohol content along with a ban on advertising and all bar promotions including 2 for 1. Maybe the goverment needs to raise the legal age for consuming alcohol?.

OOctober 13th 2009.

..........No wonder the NHS continuously have problems with budgets, if alcohol was to be made illegal, I think the NHS would flourish........... how would making it illegal help? People would drink illegally and end up in hospital like they do now, legally. A better idea is to charge people who require medical care related to alcohol, whether they are binge drinkers or aloholics.

AAOctober 13th 2009.

Consumption of alcohol in the UK has increased by 19 per cent over the last three decades and is now higher than in any other European country. Recent reports indicate that 10.5 million adults in England drink above sensible limits and around 1.1 million have a level of alcohol addiction. Alcohol is the third leading cause of disease burden in developed countries and, as a result, the cost of providing alcohol-related services is escalating. The burden on the NHS will be unsustainable if this continues.

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