Meeting date: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Meeting of the Parliament 19 June 2019
Agenda: Mental Health (Young People Entering and in Custody), Portfolio Question Time, Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Point of Order, Children and Young People (Health-harming Products)
- Mental Health (Young People Entering and in Custody)
- Portfolio Question Time
- Planning (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 (Day 2)
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motion
- Decision Time
- Point of Order
- Children and Young People (Health-harming Products)
Children and Young People (Health-harming Products)
The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-15977, in the name of Kenneth Gibson, on protecting children and young people from the marketing of health-harming products. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
Because we are continuing stage 3 of the Planning (Scotland) Bill tomorrow, the clocks are not being reset. I will try to be as accurate as possible in telling you when your time is up. I ask everyone to have due regard to that—especially certain people.
That the Parliament recognises the significant role that marketing plays in driving consumption of health-harming products, as discussed at the meeting of the Cross Party Group on Improving Scotland’s Health: 2021 and Beyond on 20 February 2019; notes the evidence presented by Dr Nathan Critchlow from the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling on how young people in the UK recall examples of alcohol marketing and can identify alcohol brands, and that exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with increased consumption, higher-risk drinking, susceptibility to drink, and brand knowledge among young people; acknowledges the stance taken by Scottish Women’s Football against alcohol sponsorship as part of its aspiration to be a “clean sport”, as outlined by its Chair, Vivienne MacLaren; notes the unanimous agreement of those represented at the meeting that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood and that all children should play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, protected from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship, and welcomes the commitment within the Scottish Government’s Alcohol Framework to consult and engage on a range of potential measures to protect children and young people from alcohol marketing in Cunninghame North and across Scotland.19:33
I warmly thank colleagues who signed my motion and facilitated this debate on what I believe to be an important public health issue. Even more, I thank those intrepid souls who have stayed behind to hear the opening speech, and those who are participating in the debate—it has been a long day for us all.
I thank members of the cross-party group on improving Scotland’s health: 2021 and beyond, of which I am co-convener. Many of the members are active campaigners against the irresponsible marketing of health-harming products. Specifically, I am grateful to Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Advertising Standards Agency for their briefings.
It is undeniable that marketing drives the consumption of health-harming products, including alcohol. On average, every week, there are 22 alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland and 683 hospital admissions. Those are not just statistics, they are people, families, and communities that are deeply affected by alcohol harm.
The first United Kingdom-wide study that examined awareness of alcohol marketing and ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise in young people was co-ordinated by researchers from the institute of social marketing at the University of Stirling and Cancer Research UK. It found that young people, above and below the legal purchasing age, are conscious of alcohol marketing and that almost one in five owns alcohol branded merchandise. At least half of 11 to 19-year-olds who were surveyed saw the equivalent of one alcohol advert every day, while a third of under-18s saw two a day. On the whole, young people easily recalled around a third of the alcohol brands in the survey.
Those findings are supported by a study that was conducted in 2015 by Alcohol Focus Scotland, Alcohol Concern, balance north east and Drink Wise, which found that 10 and 11-year-olds were more familiar with certain beers than with leading brands of biscuits, crisps and ice cream.
Of course, awareness is not an issue in itself, but when Dr Nathan Critchlow presented the UK-wide survey to the cross-party group on Scotland’s health, he emphasised results that demonstrated that, in current drinkers, alcohol marketing awareness was associated with increased consumption and greater likelihood of higher-risk consumption. Dr Critchlow’s assertion is consistent with international research that shows that children find alcohol marketing messages appealing and that that influences their perception of alcohol. We must all be cognisant that alcohol marketing reduces the age at which young people start drinking, increases the likelihood that they will drink and, if they already drink, the amount of alcohol that they consume.
Alcohol marketing is particularly prominent in the sports sector. Alcohol brands are high-profile sponsors of major sporting events that are viewed by millions of adults and children alike.
Scottish Women’s Football is setting a sterling example in that regard, by taking a strong stance against alcohol sponsorship, as part of its aspiration to represent a clean sport. As SWF chair Vivienne MacLaren put it:
“Accepting alcohol and gambling sponsorship would be incompatible with our role in promoting healthy lifestyles amongst girls and women and supporting them to make positive choices.”
Alcohol and gambling industry sponsorship represents major funding sources for grass-roots sport, and it is a bold and admirable step to reject outright such financial backing. I hope to see more sporting bodies and teams follow the lead of SWF and reject alcohol marketing.
At the February meeting of the CPG on Scotland’s health, attendees unanimously agreed that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. I whole-heartedly believe that all children should have the opportunity to play, learn and grow in spaces that are healthy, safe and free from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.
Television advertising remains one of the biggest sources of exposure to alcohol imagery, and commercial adverts for alcohol continue to air before the 9pm watershed. Later this year, the Advertising Standards Authority will publish research on children’s exposure to alcohol product ads on TV. However, according to the ASA’s research, in 2017, children’s exposure to alcohol ads, relative to that of adults, was 22 per cent. That figure is too high.
As colleagues know, powers over broadcast advertising are reserved to the UK Government. Therefore, I welcome the Scottish Government’s assurances that it continues to urge its UK counterparts either to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol marketing on television before 9pm and in cinemas, or devolve the powers so that we can make that decision in Scotland.
Of course, we have powers to regulate other marketing channels, including public spaces, alongside digital and online routes. That is why I welcome the commitment within the Scottish Government’s “Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing Harm” to “consult and engage” on measures
“to protect children and young people”.
Restricting alcohol advertising is one of the World Health Organisation’s three “best buys”, or most cost-effective methods of reducing alcohol consumption and related harm across a population. Those restrictions ensure that vulnerable groups, such as children and young people, and those who are recovering from alcohol dependence, are specifically protected from the impact of alcohol marketing. I trust that that is something that the Scottish Government will consider carefully in its next steps on changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.
We can learn lessons from our Irish neighbours, who, last year, signed into law the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. That world-leading legislation prohibits the advertising of an alcohol product in or on a sports area during a sports event. It also introduces a broadcast watershed ban on TV alcohol advertising from 3 am to 9 pm and, for alcohol advertising on radio programmes, from midnight to 10 am and 3 pm to midnight. Another key tenet of the new law is the introduction of a structural separation of alcohol from other products in retail outlets, as happens in many other countries. Over the next three years, I will watch the act’s implementation, with a view to pushing for evidence-led best practice in Scotland.
Looking more broadly at alcohol marketing, I note the calls from a number of organisations to end self-regulation in the alcohol industry, particularly a report published last year by Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK entitled “Fit For Purpose? An analysis of the role of the Portman Group in alcohol industry self-regulation”.
The Portman Group is one of the key regulators of alcohol industry marketing and promotion in the UK, with a code of practice that applies to the naming, packaging, marketing and promotional activity of UK alcohol products. According to the group’s website, it is currently funded by eight member companies, one of which accounts for more than half of the UK alcohol market.
One shortcoming of the group’s self-regulatory approach is its position that a drink may appeal to children if it “resonates with under-18s in a way that it does not with over-18s”. That narrow definition precludes taking action on drinks that appeal to the full range of consumers, including under-18s, and places the focus of enforcement on drinks with a superficial appeal to young children—who are likely to be less interested in alcohol—as distinct from adolescents.
The Portman Group and other regulatory bodies must move beyond the false assumption that underage drinkers are only attracted to childish imagery and accept that appealing to the youth market inevitably captures adolescents. Other criticisms of the self-regulatory approach include overly subjective decision making despite the wide body of evidence available regarding purchasing and drinking behaviours, such as the comprehensive research by Dr Critchlow that has already been described.
I trust that the Scottish Government will consider the shortcomings of self-regulation in its consultation on measures to protect children and young people from alcohol marketing and will work with UK counterparts to strengthen regulation where powers are reserved. The marketing of health-harming products is an issue that involves organisations ranging from the Scottish and UK Governments to regulators such as the ASA, Ofcom and the Portman Group, to alcohol brands, advertising agencies, sporting bodies, cultural event organisers and more.
One body alone cannot manage the multichannel reality of modern marketing practices. Ensuring that our children grow up in spaces free of alcohol-related marketing requires a carefully co-ordinated approach. Yet, just because something is challenging does not mean that we should not pursue it. Just this week, we heard that alcohol sales in Scotland have fallen to their lowest level in 25 years, and data from NHS Scotland showed that alcohol consumption dropped 3 per cent from 2017 to 2018, demonstrating the positive impact of minimum unit pricing. Progressive action works.
Let us build on the momentum from the 2018 alcohol framework, its commitments and the assertive rejection of health-harming sponsorship by Scottish Women’s Football to foster an environment in which children are free from the known harms of irresponsible alcohol marketing.
We move to the open debate, with speeches of around four minutes, please. Alison Harris will be followed by Emma Harper.19:42
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.
As my party’s spokesperson for children and young people, I am always pleased to speak on any issue that relates to the wellbeing of Scotland’s young people. I welcome this members’ business debate, which gives us the opportunity to consider measures that we can take to protect children from harmful products. I thank the cross-party group on improving Scotland’s health for the work that it has done on the topic, and I thank Kenny Gibson for bringing the issue to the chamber.
As we all know, marketing is one of the most powerful of the tools that are used to persuade us to make purchases and buy goods. It affects trends and it influences buying patterns. When we walk through the front door of a supermarket or any other shop, the visual tool of marketing is all around us.
Children are particularly drawn to marketing. Experts have pointed out that children and young people often accept unconditionally, and without questioning it, the information that is presented in adverts. However, parents do not need statistics for them to realise the significance of advertising in children’s lives. We know that, on television, brands and commercial messages of all sorts are a large part of our children’s lives from a very early age, and we know that, as children mature, they experience intense marketing along the way. The average eight to 13-year-old child watches about three and a half hours of internet or television a day, and it is estimated that those same children make approximately 3,000 requests each year for products and services that they have seen on TV or online.
Research clearly indicates that alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on youth decisions on whether to drink: advertising plays a huge role in that. That, in turn, can be seen to contribute greatly to creating an environment that promotes underage drinking. I read somewhere not so long ago about a study of young people who were asked to respond to alcohol advertising. The study found that underage youths are drawn to music and to animal and people characters, and to the humour in alcohol advertising. The same study found that ads that were liked by youths were more likely to elicit from them the response that they wanted to purchase the brand and products that were being advertised.
Digital marketing has advanced beyond TV adverts. Popular social media stars put out posts here and there, telling their followers what a great time they have had while using certain products. Although adults are, perhaps, minded to be cynical about their motives for doing so, some young people take such posts at face value. That is a worrying thought, considering the frequency with which alcohol and tobacco appear in them.
The link between advertising and youth trends is therefore evident, and the ways in which young people see marketing are evolving, which presents new challenges in protecting them from harmful products such as alcohol.
Alcohol knows no social bounds—it can affect anyone in society—and that can have a knock-on effect on children. Regulation on its marketing should keep up with technology, but I firmly believe that we need to take a balanced approach: we need to educate children that they have to respect alcohol. It is also possible that we need a culture change, because I am not convinced that just banning alcohol from children’s sight until they turn 18 is the way to go. I agree that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood, but let us remain open to combining that approach with a strong foundation that is based on education of children from an early age.
I call Monica Lennon. Oh. I am sorry. I forgot about Emma Harper. How could I? I call Emma Harper, to be followed by Monica Lennon.19:46
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing this important debate, and on his excellent and detailed opening speech. The debate gives all of us, across the chamber, the opportunity to discuss both the progress that has been made in protecting our young people from exposure to marketing of health-harming products, and the further steps that must be taken as we move forward. I thank Alcohol Focus Scotland, ASH Scotland and Obesity Action Scotland, which provided members with a joint briefing ahead of the debate.
As I am a former nurse and the current deputy convener of the Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, promoting better health for the people of Scotland is of great personal and professional interest and importance to me. Every person who loses their life, or who has an adverse health experience, due to inequality or to overexposure to substances that are known to have harmful impacts on health is one too many.
Research from the World Health Organization, Action on Obesity, the British Heart Foundation and others has conclusively shown that the more that young people are exposed to harmful health substances including alcohol, tobacco and even energy drinks, the more likely they are—in later life as well as in their younger years—to use such products and, consequently, to develop a range of health conditions that might have profound effects on their health and day-to-day lives. That leads to our healthcare services incurring significant costs, which should emphasise the need for us to take pre-emptive action to address the issue.
I am proud that Scotland is already leading the way in the UK on promoting better health for our people. Policies that were introduced by the current and previous Scottish Governments include banning tobacco advertising in 2002; banning smoking in enclosed public spaces in 2006; raising the age for being able to buy tobacco from 16 to 18 in 2007; making prisons smoke-free in 2018; introducing rules on the supply and sale of vapour products in 2017; and introducing the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Act 2010, which placed a legal ban on offering multibuy discounts such as three for two offers and 25 per cent discounts for buying six. The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, which Kenneth Gibson mentioned, has paved the way for the introduction of revised pricing that is already benefiting Scotland’s people.
Presiding Officer, that is a braw list, indeed. All those policies have the aim of stopping children’s and young people’s overexposure to alcohol and other harmful substances. However, we still have progress to make. Despite all the welcome steps that I have just outlined, alcohol and high-fat food brands, in particular, are still highly visible in our everyday lives. Whether we see them through adverts on TV, at the cinema, on billboards or online, in magazines and newspapers, at shops, pubs or through sponsorship of music events, it is hard for us to avoid them, and they do not discriminate in terms of the gender or age of the people who see them.
Every year, the alcohol and fatty-food and sugary-food industries spend hundreds of millions of pounds on marketing their products. Companies that promote alcohol and unhealthy food might claim to advertise only to adults, but we know that the existing advertising codes are not adequate to protect our children properly.
In the absence of the ability to change broadcasting laws, I encourage the Scottish Government—I am sure that it is doing this—to consider seriously the asks and recommendations from Alcohol Focus Scotland. Some of the key asks that I think merit further exploration include
“Prohibition of outdoor alcohol advertising and advertising in public spaces ... Alcohol advertising restricted to factual information in adult press”
“Cinema alcohol advertising only for 18 certificate films”.
I ask the minister to continue to do all that she can to put pressure on the UK Government to bring about a reform of advertising regulations in order to protect our children, young people and vulnerable adults better from harmful substances.
I welcome the debate and again thank Kenneth Gibson for lodging his motion. I look forward to hearing the minister’s response.19:50
I congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing this important debate. We say that customarily, but I genuinely believe that this is a very important topic. I was glad to be at the cross-party group when it was discussed—that was a really good meeting. In particular, I note that what the Scotland women’s national football team is doing is very principled and it sends out a really positive message.
I will keep my remarks mostly on the alcohol aspect. Colleagues will be aware that I talk about that a lot, but a lot of positive work is happening in the Scottish Parliament, with the Scottish Government and with cross-party support, to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. We have seen some positive signs just today, with the information from the monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy programme. The fact that alcohol sales have reduced is encouraging, and we hope that it is a signal that minimum unit pricing is already having an effect.
We know that the number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland is higher than the numbers in other parts of the UK. I do not think that any member of this Parliament is complacent about that.
There is a lot of support for action, with 70 MSPs and 37 organisations having signed up to the following pledge:
“I believe that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. All children should play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, protected from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.”
We are in a really good place to work towards that.
I pay tribute to a former colleague from the Labour benches, Dr Richard Simpson, who did a lot of work on the subject in the previous session of Parliament and continues to advocate on it. He will sometimes tweet me or even direct message me to keep me on the right track or suggest things that I might want to ask the Scottish Parliament information centre or ministers about. We are lucky that there are passionate members of the Scottish Parliament who want to continue to make progress.
If I may, I will plug an event that I will be hosting in Parliament on Thursday 19 September at 1 pm. I am sure that many of the members who are in the chamber this evening will attend. I and the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick, will be welcoming to the Parliament some young people from the Children’s Parliament who are investigators. They have been speaking to their peers across schools in Edinburgh about the impact that alcohol has on them and the fact that, when they get up in the morning, when they walk to school, when they walk through parks and when they are at the cinema, alcohol is everywhere.
I end by paying tribute to some of the charities that pick up the pieces when children are affected by alcohol in harmful ways, whether that is through what we sometimes think of as experimental underage drinking or through their families. I pay tribute to Blameless, which is a charity that is based at the Hamilton Accies football stadium. If the minister has not been able to get along to visit it so far, I am sure that it will warmly welcome her. In fact, its doors are open to anyone. It is difficult for children who are affected by alcohol harm to get support. There used to be groups such as Alateen, but it is not really accessible to young people any more.
The fact that we are having this debate and that there are the forums is really important, but I hope that we will keep doing everything that we can in Scotland to raise the bar and make sure that all our children and young people are protected from health-harming products.19:54
I am grateful to my colleague Kenneth Gibson for bringing this important debate to the chamber. Children and young people are incredibly receptive to marketing messages, whether they are direct or subliminal. We all remember what it was like when we reached a certain age and we tried to be a grown-up. At that stage drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and using any product that adults used seemed attractive and cool.
The reality is that, as the helpful briefing from Alcohol Focus Scotland tells us, drinking during adolescence poses risks to long-term health and wellbeing by affecting important brain developmental processes, and by establishing drinking patterns that can continue into adulthood. Alcohol consumption during adolescence might also have a heightened effect on mental wellbeing. For example, it can be associated with a higher risk of self-harm and suicide attempts.
The fact is that adolescents are more susceptible to the intoxicating effects of alcohol because of their physical immaturity and lower tolerance levels. Moreover, we all know that the effects of alcohol can result in antisocial behaviour, which can blight communities.
As Monica Lennon said, MSPs, the children’s commissioner and many third sector organisations, including Children in Scotland, Children 1st and Barnardo’s, have all supported the pledge that says:
“I believe that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. All children should play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, protected from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.”
However, despite ever-more stringent advertising restrictions, young people are exposed to the marketing of alcohol, through the broadcast media, the internet and sports sponsorship. I applaud Scottish Women’s Football for having a fantastic team and taking us into the world cup tournament—I wish the team the best of luck in its match against Argentina tonight—and for refusing to accept alcohol-related sponsorship. That is truly a progressive and sensible approach that I would dearly like men’s football authorities to take on board.
The Scottish Government can lead the way in transforming this damaging culture. The commitment in the Scottish Government’s alcohol prevention framework to consult on measures to restrict alcohol marketing to protect children and young people is hugely positive, as was our minimum pricing initiative that was introduced last year.
Alcohol Focus Scotland is working with the Children’s Parliament to explore children’s thoughts and feelings about alcohol and how it impacts on their lives. The findings will be reported later this year. Children and young people must have a say in any initiative that promotes their health and wellbeing.
Of course, we know that it is not just alcohol marketing that poses a danger to young people but the marketing of junk food, high in fats and sugar, body-enhancing products such as slimming pills, influential video games and much more, all of which are designed to target a young demographic that is likely to be influenced. Successful marketing relies on targeting the audience by finding out which products have most appeal to a certain demographic.
I am pleased that the advertising authorities are now more responsible and aware in promoting products that appeal to young people. We have made some strides in that area, and I hope that progress continues.
I conclude with a final plea to retailers to do more to keep harmful products away from our young people—our future generations.19:58
I congratulate Kenneth Gibson on securing time for the debate. I know that we are here late in the day but I, for one, am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on something that, like Kenneth Gibson, I am very passionate about.
We are talking about a background of an exponential explosion in ever more sophisticated marketing tactics and access to products that are eminently harmful to our children and young people. The motion focuses on alcohol consumption, but we could quite easily speak about excess consumption of high-sugar food and drink products, high levels of caffeine in drinks, fast food, processed food or even the over-consumption of video games and social media—controversial.
However, as we are focusing on alcohol, we should applaud Scottish Women’s Football for its stance against alcohol advertising. The argument against is, of course, that it would be difficult to replace revenue in the associated sports. However, Kenneth Gibson, like me, is of the era in which the likes of motorsport and snooker were heavily sponsored by tobacco companies—I remember the famous JPS Lotus team, for example. Exactly the same arguments were made back then when legislation banned that kind of advertising. However, as we know, the sky has not fallen in on those sports and they have gone from strength to strength. In fact, Formula 1 is one of the world’s most cash-rich sports these days.
Sport is entirely the wrong environment in which to promote such products, because their consumption has exactly the opposite effect to the positive effect that sport can bring. Perhaps the stance that the Scottish Women’s Football team has taken will show the way for other sports when they consider that kind of sponsorship.
In our drive to tackle the many impacts of the consumption of health-harming products, we must acknowledge that there are many factors that this Parliament could affect. For example, we know that premises where alcohol can be purchased are disproportionately prolific in the most deprived areas—some 40 per cent higher, in some cases—so how this place, and local authorities, agree licensing of those premises gives politicians the ability to influence access to brands and their associated marketing.
Furthermore, we need to look at the exposure of children and young people to alcohol in the home environment. I met Alcohol Scotland a couple of weeks ago and was told about what the children of parents who have alcohol issues said when asked what they would want. Their most frequent reply was that they wished that their parents would abstain from drinking until the children had gone to bed. That answer should raise so many flags with us. Those children are basically looking for the parental attention that most take for granted; they are losing out on opportunities to have access to activities, indoors and out, in a family and community environment. Those behaviours are learned, so we need to consider how we can break that destructive cycle.
Just to put some figures on those points, it is estimated that about 51,000 children and young people live in households where alcohol harm is an issue. We are not talking about a few children; they could fill Hampden stadium. Does Brian Whittle agree that an area of Government focus should be how to support those young people and reduce stigma, so that they can get help?
I do agree with that point, and I am going to speak about some of the ways in which we can tackle the issue. When we speak about poverty and food poverty, parental alcohol or drug abuse has an impact, so it is very important that we deal with it.
My final point is about the other side of the debate: how we can encourage better choices and behaviours. Limiting the marketing of health-harming products to our children and young people is, of course, commendable. However, are we doing all that we can to market and promote health-enhancing behaviours? I suggest that there is a lot more that we can do to make such opportunities more accessible and affordable, irrespective of background or personal circumstances. In adopting that approach, this Parliament could really grasp the preventative health agenda and develop policies that catch our poor health outcomes further upstream, offering not only a better budget spend but, more importantly, far better long-term health outcomes.
How we help to build and support our communities is extremely important in that challenge. Supporting our third sector will be key; giving communities the opportunities to play and to take part in sports, physical activities, art, drama and music will have a significant impact in tackling the issues that we are discussing.
There is much more that I would love to say on this important debate. I again thank Kenny Gibson for giving us the opportunity.20:03
I am pleased to close for the Government this evening. I commend Kenneth Gibson for lodging the motion and highlighting the importance of protecting our young people from alcohol advertising. I also add my thanks to the cross-party group for its important work.
I will set out the distinct challenges that we face in Scotland. Since the 1980s, we have seen substantially increased alcohol consumption and, consequently, high levels of alcohol-related harm. On average, every adult in Scotland drinks around one third more than the lower-risk guidelines of 14 units per week.
That has a range of serious consequences. There are, on average, 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week in Scotland and 683 hospital admissions. Behind every one of those statistics is a person, a family and a community.
That was the motivation behind our 2009 alcohol framework, which has been successful in taking steps towards a healthier relationship with alcohol. We have banned irresponsible promotions of alcohol, lowered the drink-drive limit and implemented our national alcohol brief intervention programme.
We have taken significant steps over the past decade. Our refreshed alcohol framework, which was published last year, builds on a decade of progress and sets out 20 further actions to prevent harm. Our approach is rooted in the best international evidence. At the heart of our new framework are the World Health Organization recommendations to tackle the affordability, availability and attractiveness of alcohol.
We have taken bold action on affordability—I am proud to serve in the Government that implemented our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy last May.
As members may know, the annual monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy monitoring report was published today. That includes alcohol sales data for 2018, with eight months of post-minimum unit pricing sales. The volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland fell by about 3 per cent from 2017 to 2018 to its lowest level for 25 years. Those are very promising signs.
Are we able to look behind those average figures to see what impact minimum unit pricing has had on deprivation?
I am not clear on whether we are able to do that. Having heard the chief medical officer talk about the issue this morning, I understand that the report includes the very first figures on minimum unit pricing, and we will certainly have to compare data year on year.
I am pretty sure that more figures are coming out in September. If that is incorrect—the member will be aware that I am covering for the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing—I will let the member know.
I turn to the attractiveness of alcohol. Like other members, I am shocked by the sheer volume of alcohol marketing that children experience. The University of Stirling survey that is referenced in the motion found that half of the young people surveyed had seen at least 32 instances of alcohol marketing in a month, which is at least one a day. That is simply too high.
It is clear that the current self-regulatory system for advertising is not providing adequate protection. Many of our European neighbours already have a stronger approach, and Ireland will introduce mandatory restrictions from November.
Our new alcohol framework contains two significant actions on alcohol marketing: to press the UK Government to restrict television and cinema advertising of alcohol; and to consult on a range of measures, including mandatory restrictions on alcohol marketing that are within our devolved powers.
We know that children still spend large amounts of time watching television, on which alcohol adverts are aired prior to 9 pm. Regrettably, powers over TV advertising are outwith the control of this Parliament. If Westminster remains unwilling to act, we will press for the relevant powers to be devolved. However, we can take action on other forms of advertising that are within our devolved powers.
When children and young people travel around their local areas, they are exposed to alcohol adverts on billboards, bus shelters and digital screens. The University of Stirling research demonstrates that a quarter of young people see alcohol billboards weekly.
We also recognise that the marketing landscape has changed substantially, with the increasing prevalence of the internet and social media usage. Digital marketing often utilises new, more interactive methods. Our young people are particularly exposed, as they spend more time online and are more likely to be active on social media.
Young people grow up in a digital world and face a new set of pressures. I have seen the effects that that can have in my own portfolio. We know that social media can have negative impacts on young people’s emotional wellbeing and that there are connections to other things such as body image and disrupted sleep.
I recently announced that we will co-produce advice on what healthy social media use looks like. It will be created by children and young people for children and young people. We are providing £90,000-worth of funding to make that happen. I am delighted that the successful applicants were the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children’s Parliament.
In developing our proposals on alcohol marketing restrictions, we are similarly committed to co-designing with children and young people. Policy to protect young people should be developed with them, not imposed on them.
Turning to alcohol sponsorship of events, I join other members in applauding Scottish Women’s Football as an exemplar for pledging not to accept alcohol sponsorship.
Marketing is a diverse area, with many views and impacts to consider, and we will engage with all interested stakeholders and take their views into account.
I am very encouraged by the consensus in the chamber this evening on protecting our children and young people from alcohol advertising. I know that all the party leaders have signed Alcohol Focus Scotland’s pledge for an alcohol-free childhood. The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing will welcome further discussions with members as our proposals are being developed.Meeting closed at 20:09.
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