The European Commission has called for tougher controls on alcohol advertising in an attempt to combat 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 European Union may try to ban alcohol promotion.
Brussels has issued guidance to the EU's national governments which urges them to stop advertisers portraying images of youth culture, sexual success, drugs and violence.
The Commission found that Wales had the EU's most young drinkers, 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 tight enough.
Sara Price, the 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-regulated industry.'
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.