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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Drink firms 'target the young'
Young drinkers
Children are targeted by drinks ads, say campaigners
Drinks companies are targeting young children as a way of boosting their profits, say researchers.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), based in Cambridgeshire, found children as young as 11 were prime targets.

In their Europe-wide study report 'Marketing Alcohol to Young People' the IAS said the drinks industry were using websites promoting alcohol to lure children in.

They blame drinks-related interactive games, competitions, alcohol branded accessories, screen savers, chat-rooms and free e-mail addresses for encouraging young children to consider drinking alcohol.


The alcohol industry is carrying out a systematic campaign to turn young people into drinkers

Gina Defalias, of the IAS

Sports sponsorship came in for particular criticism.

The IAS said voluntary codes of advertising practice do not allow alcohol to be associated with images of sporting prowess.

But it said that various sports clubs and teams get round this by their sponsorship - some clubs like Liverpool even have baby rompers with the alcohol company's logo on them.

The IAS said voluntary codes of practice are not working and they called for a statutory code, which could be independently monitored

Profits

Gina Defalias, the report author, blamed the drinks industry for a "systematic campaign" to encourage youngsters to drink.

She said: "Children are bombarded with positive images of alcohol drinking from the moment they begin to understand their surroundings, until they grow up.

"The alcohol industry is carrying out a systematic campaign to turn young people into drinkers as a way to consolidate and increase their profits.

"As a result young people are drinking at an earlier age and increasing the number of drinking occasions and the quantity drunk."

The IAS report comes weeks before the government publishes its long-awaited national alcohol strategy, which is expected to address the problem of teenage drinking.

The Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, said self-regulation was working well.

A spokesman said: "We find it disturbing that the IAS are presenting such a misleading view of the industry's code of practice, ignoring totally the fact that 55 products have been withdrawn or substantially altered as a result of its introduction in 1996.

"If the IAS have any real evidence of a company in the UK targeting underage drinkers then they should present that evidence to the relevant authorities."

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See also:

20 Feb 01 | Health
UK children top drugs league
20 Feb 01 | Health
Teenage drink and drugs in Europe
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