Page last updated at 01:33 GMT, Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Alcohol on TV 'prompts drinking'

wine
Participants were offered wine, beer or soft drinks

People are more likely to turn to alcohol while watching TV if they see drinking being portrayed in films or adverts, a study suggests.

The research, led by a team from Radboud University in the Netherlands, monitored the behaviour of 80 young people while they watched television.

Researchers found those who saw lots of alcohol references drank twice as much as those that did not.

Campaigners said there needed to be more restrictions on advertising.

The team split the 80 18 to 29-year-olds into four groups, the Alcohol and Alcoholism journal reported.

The first group watched the film American Pie, a film laden with alcohol references, and saw commercials advertising alcohol.

Unfortunately, alcohol advertising and promotion on film and television usually present drinking as positive social ritual, while leaving out the potential harm that drinking can cause
Don Shenker, of Alcohol Concern
A second group watched American Pie, but no alcohol adverts.

The third saw the film 40 Days and 40 Nights, during which alcohol is portrayed much less than in American Pie, but did see adverts for alcohol.

The final group watched 40 Days and 40 Nights and no adverts for alcohol.

During the viewing, which was done in pairs, the participants had access to a fridge containing both beer, small bottles of wine and soft drinks.

Those who watched American Pie and the alcohol adverts drank nearly three bottles of alcohol, compared to 1.5 for those who watched 40 Days and 40 nights and no adverts for alcohol.

Lead researcher Rutger Engels said: "Our study clearly shows that alcohol portrayals in films and advertisements not only affects people's attitudes and norms on drinking in society, but it might work as a cue that affects craving and subsequent drinking."

He said the findings suggested there may be an argument for restricting advertising and introducing warnings on films.

But he added there needed to be more research to establish the long-term implications on drinking habits.

Excess drinking

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker agreed an advertising ban was needed, suggesting a night-time watershed be created to protect children.

He added: "Unfortunately, alcohol advertising and promotion on film and television usually present drinking as a positive social ritual, while leaving out the potential harm that drinking can cause."

Alcohol advertising is currently restricted under EU rules so that companies cannot promote it using children or as an aid to social or sexual success or to help as a therapeutic aid.

Advertising cannot also not encourage excess drinking.

The Department of Health said there were no plans to extend these restrictions.

Sue Eustace, of the Advertising Association, said the strict codes already in place provided the "correct framework" and introducing further bans would just be a "blunt" tool.

"Research shows that networks of close friends are the key influence in terms of our relationship with alcohol."



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