Editorial: Don't blame ads for the nation's drink problem

The shocking death of a father-of-three, who was kicked to death by a gang of drunken youths, provides yet another warning of the emotionally charged market within which alcohol advertisers must operate.

A police chief has linked Garry Newlove's murder with the availability of cheap, strong alcohol. Doubtless, his comments will strike a chord, although it's debatable that drink alone could have provoked such an incident in an area of Warrington where both vandalism and violence are endemic. Had that same police chief drawn a parallel between what happened with alcohol advertising then called for it to be banned, the lobbyists would have had a field day.

No matter that the regulations governing the promotion of alcohol in the UK are among the tightest in the world. Nor is it likely that that the immediate banning of alcohol advertising would do anything to reduce the amount of anti-social behaviour that binge drinking causes.

Nevertheless, alcohol marketing remains under close scrutiny. While the Portman Group, the alliance of alcohol manufacturers that promotes sensible drinking, has done much work in presenting the industry as responsible and accountable, past indiscretions by a few rogue advertisers will prove hard to live down. Against this, it's vital the industry is seen as squeaky clean. Should the Government opt to act on the demand from some MPs for a ban on alcohol ads in cinemas before films with a certificate below 18, it's doubtful there would be many dissenting voices. But there is only so much that can be done. Binge-drinking, and the social disorder that accompanies it, will show no major reduction while "happy hour" special offers proliferate.

The alcohol industry must keep proving it conducts itself properly because there will always be those seeking to prove otherwise. Showing them that the nation's drink problem has much wider causes will always be an uphill struggle.