TV alcohol adverts could face '9pm watershed'

Image source, PA

Drink adverts could be banned on TV before the "9pm watershed" under Scottish government plans to curb alcohol abuse.

Manufacturers will also be urged to include health warnings on labelling.

The measures are part of a 20-point strategy aimed at reducing drinking, with a focus on young people.

It was unveiled as new official figures revealed there were 35,499 alcohol-related hospital admissions in Scotland in 2017-18.

They also indicated that people living in deprived areas were seven times more likely to suffer harm due to drink than others.

Marketing regulation is reserved to Westminster, so the Scottish government will ask the UK government to act or devolve powers to Holyrood.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: "We've got 14% higher consumption of alcohol than the rest of the UK - and the UK is about the worst in western Europe, so we have our issues that we need to resolve."

He said the UK government was already committed to introducing a "9pm watershed" for unhealthy food product advertising, and he would press for this to be extended to alcohol as well.

Unveiling the Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing Harm strategy, he said the drinks industry would be given until September 2019 to improve health labelling on products.

He warned that if they failed to do so voluntarily, they would face new legislation.

He said: "Many of the producers are already labelling their products with the chief medical officer's guidelines but some aren't.

"This would potentially create a level playing field, where everyone raises their game to the highest standard.

"We can't stand back and ignore the fact that right now, every day, someone who grew up in a more deprived area is far more likely to be affected by alcohol harm."

Image source, Malcolm Cochrane/PA
Image caption,
Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick said the UK government should act - or devolve new powers to Holyrood

Minimum unit pricing on alcohol was introduced in Scotland in May, after years of legal battles with the alcohol industry.

Ministers plan to review the unit price of 50p after two years, and to conduct a fuller evaluation of the policy's impact by 2023.

Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomed the plan, especially the proposals on marketing and labelling.

Chief executive Alison Douglas said: "It is clearly unacceptable that more information is required on a pint of milk than a bottle of wine and the industry continues to show a complete disregard for our right to know what is in our drinks and what the risks associated with alcohol consumption are."

The British Medical Association also endorsed the strategy, and its focus on young people.

'Alcohol-free childhoods'

BMA Scotland chairman Dr Lewis Morrison said: "The alcohol industry spends hundreds of millions of pounds every year on advertising in the UK. The result of that is that everywhere children turn while they are growing up they are exposed to alcohol marketing.

"Removing alcohol advertising from public spaces in particular will be a strong step towards ensuring children in Scotland experience alcohol-free childhoods and should be fully embraced."

The latest figures for alcohol-related hospital admissions were a slight improvement on last year, and there has been a general decline over the past decade.

The 35,499 hospital admissions involved 23,494 individuals.