Govt plots anti-binge drinking advertising push

The Government is planning a campaign to curb binge drinking after accusing the drinks industry of flouting its self-regulatory ad code.

Officials say that up to £5 million could be spent on a campaign to warn people of the dangers of excessive drinking following a Downing Street study suggesting that Britain had a worse problem than other European countries. A final decision will be taken early next year, after which a pitch is expected.

The study estimated that the drinks industry spends £200 million a year on advertising in Britain, or between £600 million and £800 million including indirect promotions.

The report, by the prime minister's strategy unit, said efforts by some companies to encourage socially responsible drinking were outweighed by "the vast bulk of messages to consumers to promote alcohol via advertising, sponsorship and other media".

A consultation exercise found "concerns about the content of alcohol ads and a perception that they often targeted young people".

Although ads should not appeal to under-18s or depict drinkers under 25, the report said: "There is a perception the content and target of advertising go beyond the spirit of existing self-regulation."

The strategy unit stated: "There have been no national government advertising campaigns around sensible drinking, although the Portman Group promotes a responsible drinking message."

Jean Coussins, the Portman Group chief executive, said: "The Government should develop mass-media campaigns to curb excessive drinking, funded at the same level as its drink-drive campaigns over the years."

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