Doctors and medical charities have warned that Britain's "alcohol problem" is so entrenched that it needs drastic action which would include an end to the sponsorship of sporting events and TV advertising of alcohol to protect teenagers and children.
In its submission to the House of Commons health select committee, the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA) said alcohol cost almost 15,000 lives a year and was the leading cause of deaths among young men, responsible for 27% of fatalities among those aged 16 to 24. The AHA comprises 31 organisations, including the British Medical Association, the Institute of Alcohol Studies and eight royal colleges.
Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the AHA, said extreme measures were required to "reset society's norms" and protect children from marketing messages which glamorise drinking and fuel excess consumption, according to the Daily Telegraph.
Gilmore said: "We know that young people are heavily affected by advertising and marketing.
"The evidence shows that when children are exposed to adverts they tend to drink at an earlier age, to drink more, and are more likely to end up developing a problem with alcohol in later life.
"Britain's attitude to drink has changed dramatically, so that it has become all-pervasive, always available and constantly marketed.
"In terms of consumption, we need to change the norms, to get back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago."
Current broadcast regulations in the UK ban alcohol TV commercials during shows watched predominantly by children. But programmes such as popular soap operas, which are aimed at adults but still watched by children, are not covered by the regulations. Major sporting events popular with children are also sponsored by alcohol producers, including Euro 2012, which is sponsored by Carlsberg, and the Olympics, which are sponsored by Heineken. Some Premier League football teams are also sponsored by beer companies, including Everton, which is sponsored by Thai beer Chang, and Liverpool, which is sponsored by Carlsberg.
The AHA has proposed that the UK follow France by banning advertisements to any audience which might include a significant proportion of children and young people.
Earlier this year, Ireland's government pledged to phase out all alcohol sponsorship of sports events, and to ban outdoor advertising.
The submission from the AHA is part of a consultation process on the Government's Alcohol Strategy, which includes proposals to introduce a minimum price of 40p per unit. The AHA is pushing for a 50p per unit price, which Scotland recently voted to adopt. It claims the higher price would result in 97,000 fewer hospital admissions a year within 10 years.
By Neil Gerrard
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