Demands for tighter rules over alcohol advertising by ministers and MPs have been called into doubt by new research for the ad industry.
A study for the Advertising Association suggests peer pressure, rather than ads, is the main factor behind the rise in binge drinking among young people.
The findings come as ministers prepare to study their own research from Sheffield University on the link between drinking behaviour, pricing and advertising, before deciding on new regulations.
They will now have to take account of the AA's survey of 18- to 24-year-olds by the market research consultancy FDS International and economics consultancy Volterra.
The AA found "decisive differences" in the drinking behaviour of friends of problem drinkers compared with the drinking behaviour of friends of non-binge drinkers. Some 85 per cent of binge drinkers think most or all of their friends binge drink, compared with just 41 per cent of non-binge drinkers. Conversely, only 3 per cent of binge drinkers have no or hardly any friends that binge drink, compared with 22 per cent of non-binge drinkers.
Baroness Peta Buscombe, the chief executive of the AA, said: "This research shows that the people around us are the key influences in terms of our relationship with alcohol, not advertising. The findings of the study also demonstrate that a new approach to tackle binge drinking is required."