Amendment 86 deals in essence with the question of advertising of alcohol. It does so mainly through inserting new sections 122A, 122C and 122D, which deal with, respectively, a ban on advertising near schools and matters affecting children; advertising within licensed premises; and advertising at sporting and cultural events.
The Nicholson review on licensing was established when I was justice minister, and it led to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005. It may be coincidence only, but the consumption of alcohol has been on a largely downward path since 2005. That may be due partly to the restriction on the display of alcohol to those areas that are licensed. Some members may remember when managers’ special offers were stacked high at the entrance to stores and in the aisles.
Around the same time, Nicola Sturgeon, who was then a member of the Health and Community Care Committee, was endeavouring to curtail the advertising of tobacco. As she found, our powers in Scotland are limited in that respect, but I believe that we should seek to reduce the normalisation of alcohol in a similar manner to the way in which we did so for tobacco. Recent surveys have shown how successful that approach has been, with teenagers often unable to name tobacco brands that are familiar to all of us—even taking into account the various age groups of members, I think that we would all be aware of the brands.
This lengthy section seeks the further denormalisation of alcohol. It is underpinned by the World Health Organization strategy on alcohol, which they have termed as being no ordinary product. The WHO believes that children and teenagers
“who choose not to drink alcohol beverages have the right to be supported in their non-drinking behaviour and protected from pressures to drink.”
The WHO strategy says that one of the 10 target areas for action should be the “marketing of alcoholic beverages”. The report recognises the need to reduce the impact of what are
“sophisticated advertising and promotion techniques”,
at least in respect of young people.
I appreciate that advertising restrictions in the United Kingdom aim to avoid direct impact on young people, but alcohol advertising is so prevalent that brand identity is established at a very early age. The restrictions that the amendment proposes are aimed at reducing young people’s exposure. It would ban alcohol advertising in the vicinity of schools, nurseries, crèches and play areas; within retail premises other than in areas that are licensed; and at sporting and cultural events that mainly involve, or are principally aimed at, under-18s.
The so-called loi Evin in France sets out clear definitions for alcoholic drinks and clear guidance on how the law is to be applied. It bans any advertising that is aimed at children and any advertising on television, in cinemas or at any sporting or cultural event, and it applies across the board. It is interesting that the predicted demise of sports that have been deprived of alcohol advertising in France has simply not occurred. It is also interesting that France, which had a severe alcohol problem in the 1980s and 1990s, as severe as ours was in 2005, has now moved back to the European Union average for alcohol problems. That is an extremely significant improvement.
The restrictions that I propose will complement the voluntary arrangements of self-policing by the industry-funded Portman Group. The Portman Group has a code, but that does not apply to wholesalers or to retail-led promotional activities. The advertising standards are tested, I believe, on an almost daily basis by radical new promotion methods.
Specifically, amendment 186 would ban advertising within 200m of certain premises that are used by children—schools, nurseries, crèches and children’s play areas. The restrictions will apply to billboards, hoardings, bus shelters and advertisements in or on licensed premises, excepting displays that are primarily to be seen from inside the premises. Displays on A-boards, displays of cans and bottles in shop windows and offers outside shops, pubs and restaurants would all be banned. There would be an exemption for factual information displayed at pubs.
Premises that are used for other purposes, such as community halls where a nursery or crèche may be hosted on an occasional basis and open spaces that are not specifically intended for children but which may be used by children and families, would be exempt.
Currently, although the display of alcoholic products in licensed premises is limited, advertising is not. The amendment would restrict advertising to the licensed area.
As I have said, the loi Evin is a blanket ban on alcohol advertising at sporting and cultural events. Although that might be desirable from a public health standpoint, much of our sport is very reliant on alcohol advertising. A blanket ban may happen in time—and, putting on my hat as the psychiatrist in addictions that I was before becoming a politician, I hope that it will—but for now I have attempted the more modest but difficult task of restricting bans to venues where under-18s are the primary group to be involved in, or the audience to, sporting and cultural events. The restrictions will not apply to open-air or on-street activities. Cultural events were also difficult to define, but I believe that the balance is correct in the amendment.
The responses to my consultation ranged—as you might expect—from support for the full loi Evin approach to a preference for the status quo. The only response that surprised me was the one from the Advertising Standards Authority; it felt that there was no need for additional restrictions. The proposals in my bill were supported by 81 per cent of respondents. The BMA and Alcohol Focus Scotland are backing the amendment and the Law Society of Scotland was very positive in its consultation response.
I move amendment 86.