- The European Commission has called for tougher controls over alcohol advertising in an attempt to combat the growth in under-age drinking in Europe.
The Brussels-based Commission has singled out Britain as having one of the highest proportions of young people who drink regularly. Its intervention will worry advertisers who fear that the EU may eventually try to ban alcohol promotion in the way that it sought to outlaw tobacco promotion.
Brussels has issued guidance to the EU's national governments which urges them to stop advertisers portraying drinking as glamorous, using images associated with youth culture, sexual success, drugs and violence.
The Commission found that Wales had the most young drinkers in the EU, with 50 per cent of 15-year-old boys saying they regularly drink beer, followed by Denmark (43 per cent), Greece (42 per cent) and England (40 per cent).
But the advertising industry attacked the Commission's move as unnecessary, saying the controls under the existing codes of practice in Britain were already tight enough.
Sara Price, head of public affairs at the Advertising Association, said: "The answer to the problem is much stricter enforcement of the laws on under-age drinking rather than clamping down on a well and effectively regulated industry. The Commission should be looking at what causes young people to drink in the first place and how they get alcohol."
Price pointed out that the codes did not allow alcohol ads to be aimed at under 18-year-olds or feature people who appeared to be under 25, and should not suggest any link with sexual success or attractiveness.
The AA believes British ministers would resist an EU demand for an end to alcohol ads. But it believes that the idea may resurface as a long term goal of the Commission.