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5 February 2015, 05:43
Research has found primary school children in the North East are more familiar with the Foster's lager brand than popular biscuit brands.
A survey of 10 and 11-year-olds across the region revealed almost half (49%) had tried alcohol with children who used social media and watched TV after the watershed more likely to have tried drinking.
Evidence shows that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink more, and to start drinking at an earlier age.
Campaigners are now calling for stricter alcohol marketing regulations to protect children and young people after the survey found high awareness of alcohol brands. The research also found children associated football teams and events with alcohol brands which sponsor them.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, joined forces with Alcohol Concern, Alcohol Focus Scotland, and Drink Wise to survey 10 and 11-year-olds from primary schools across England and Scotland. They were asked about their recognition of alcohol and snack brand names/logos, alcohol sponsorship of football, their TV viewing and social media use, and whether they had tried alcohol.
Key findings in the North East:
* Brand recognition of Foster's lager was particularly high (98%), ranking above McVitie's (85%), McCoy's (91%) and Ben & Jerry's (84%).
* Around four in five (79%) recognised the Foster's "Brad and Dan" TV advert.
* Two thirds or more recognised Smirnoff (78%) and WKD (67%) as alcohol brands.
* Almost half (44%) of children identified Carlsberg as sponsors of the England football team and more than half correctly linked Chang with Everton Football Club (54%).
* One in three children associated Heineken with the Champions' League (33%) and Budweiser as a World Cup sponsor (31%).
Balance say the findings offer further evidence that the current codes are inadequate and are failing to prevent under 18s from absorbing alcohol marketing messages on TV, online and in the cinema.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said:
"It's no surprise that school children are so familiar with alcohol brands when the alcohol industry spends around £800 million a year on marketing its products.
Our young people are bombarded with this excessive marketing when they turn on the TV, go to the cinema, use social media and watch their favourite sports teams - it's not right. Evidence shows that exposure to alcohol promotion in the UK normalises drinking for young people and encourages them to drink at younger ages and in greater quantities.
We need to see stricter regulations put in place to protect our children from this level of exposure to alcohol. The first step in a phased approach should see a ban on TV alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed to reduce the number of children in the viewing audience.
Support for a ban of this kind is at an all-time high here in the North East with almost three in four people backing the measure in a recent survey."
The four organisations are calling for:
* Alcohol advertising to be restricted to factual information in adult press.
* As a first step, alcohol advertising on television should be allowed only after the 9pm watershed.
* Cinema advertising only to be allowed for 18 certificate films.
* In the longer term, a phased ban on alcohol sponsorship of professional sports, music and cultural events and branded merchandise.
A recent opinion poll showed strong public support for better protection for children and young people from alcohol marketing.
Professor Gerard Hastings, founder of the Institute of Social Marketing at the University of Stirling and member of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said:
"This research shows that alcohol marketing is clearly making an impression on our children. Existing evidence shows that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to start drinking at an earlier age and to drink more.
As the RBS 6 Nations kicks off with Guinness as its 'official beer', thousands of children across the UK will once again see alcohol associated with a major sporting event. Alcohol companies claim only to advertise their products to adults, but children are consuming the same media and taking in the same pro-alcohol messages as adults.
We will be pressing the Government to take effective action to make sure children are not regularly exposed to marketing messages for an adult product which causes so much damage to health and society. We know the public share our concerns; more than two thirds (69%) agree that alcohol advertising appeals to under 18s, and more than half (58%) supported restrictions on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events."