A leading medical journal has accused alcohol companies of resorting to dubious tactics to promote their products among young generation.
According to researchers writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), internal industry documents obtained by the Commons Health Select Committee show that firms were "pushing the boundaries" of the code on alcohol advertising.
AdvertisementProfessor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing at the University of Stirling, and colleagues, made the BMJ analysis, pointing out references made to the need to recruit new drinkers and establish their loyalty in the industry papers obtained.
"The current problems with UK alcohol promotion are reminiscent of those seen before tobacco advertising was banned, when attempts to control content and adjust targeting simply resulted in more cryptic and imaginative campaigns... History suggests that alcohol advertisers are drinking in the last-chance saloon," the Independent quoted the authors as saying.
Lambrini, a perry aimed at young women, was labelled as a "kids' drink", Carling Weekend as the "first choice for festival virgins" while Smirnoff Ice wanted "to become the most respected youth brand", the papers said.
The editorial by Trish Groves, deputy editor of the BMJ, said: "It is time to put away the rhetoric, popular with the drinks industry, that alcohol misuse is largely an individual problem best avoided and managed through education, counselling and medical treatment."
Meanwhile, the report has also sparked outrage from the alcohol industry.
David Poley, chief executive of Portman Group, a trade group of UK alcoholic drinks producers, said: "We are proud of the regulatory system for alcohol in the UK which is admired across the world.
"Gerard Hastings trawled through thousands of pages of internal company marketing documents on behalf of the Health Committee. He failed to find any evidence of actual malpractice. He therefore resorts to slurs and innuendos. We wish Gerard Hastings would publish his criticisms in an advertisement. The ASA could then rightly ban it for being misleading."
Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, added: "This article is a gross misrepresentation of the strict internal marketing process that Diageo applies, and a distortion of the evidence we provided to the Health Select Committee as part of its inquiry. We are extremely disappointed that the confidential and commercially sensitive information shared with the Committee, in good faith, has been made available for Professor Hastings's use in pursuing his own public agenda."