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Calls to limit child exposure to alcohol ads

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

image captionThe French law would see the exposure of children to alcohol advertising limited

A bid to get the government to take a tougher stance on alcohol advertising in the UK has been given the backing of health experts.

Totnes MP Dr Sarah Wollaston will put forward a private members bill on Wednesday to limit the exposure of children to alcohol marketing.

The bill is based on French legislation.

The British Medical Association and university experts said the move would go a long way to protect children.

Dr Wollaston, who is a GP, will put forward the proposal as a 10-minute rule bill.

This allows her to make a speech in Parliament, although the process rarely leads to legislation being passed but is instead a chance to raise awareness about an issue.

'Unhealthy influence'

Dr Wollaston believes a French law known as Loi Evin could be adapted for the UK.

The legislation was introduced in 1991 and bans alcohol promotion through mediums such as television and social media, while allowing it elsewhere.

Professor Gerard Hastings, a social marketing expert at Stirling University, told the British Medical Journal the law had helped to reduce alcohol consumption in France.

"Removing this profoundly unhealthy influence is, unsurprisingly, recognised as a key public health priority. So along with their cafe culture, the Loi Evin is a French innovation that the UK needs."

Ram Moorthy, of the BMA's board of science, agreed, urging MPs from all parties to support the bill.

"In our last report on alcohol marketing and alcohol misuse, the BMA highlighted the millions of pounds the alcohol industry spends on promoting alcohol, which we know can encourage young people to start drinking and to consume more alcohol than is healthy."

There are already rules in place governing advertising of alcohol which prevent, for example, marketing on TV during prime-time children's programmes, but the code does not go as far as the French rules.

The move comes after health groups have been heavily critical of the government's attempts to encourage sensible drinking through its responsibility deal earlier this month.

Six leading health organisations pulled out of the agreement, which saw industry committing itself to pledges such as increasing the number of products with unit labelling.

They argued the government was being too soft on industry.

David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, said: "The UK already has some of the strictest rules in place to prevent alcohol being marketed to children or in a way that might appeal to them. The call for a French-style advertising ban is entirely unfounded."

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