Lifestyle Economics

No justification for draconian ban on alcohol advertising


Government and Institutions

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Government and Institutions

Advertising helps consumers make informed and efficient choices and encourages competition

The Institute of Economic Affairs responds to suggestion that the UK bans all alcohol advertising

An editorial published in the British Medical Journal today (1 March 2013) calls for “a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship”. The authors claim that a recent RAND report “confirms that such a step is long overdue”, but RAND has made no such recommendation and its report was mainly focused on teenage exposure to online advertising. There is no justification for more draconian action. Britain is already one of the world’s most restricted marketplaces for alcohol advertising and regular alcohol consumption by 11 to 15 year olds has fallen by two-thirds in the last decade despite so-called “pocket money prices.”

Commenting on the editorial, Christopher Snowdon, Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The vast majority of British adults are drinkers and they have a right to know what is available. Advertising helps consumers make informed and efficient choices while protecting them from being ripped off. Without advertising there can be no true competition, and without competition, the marketplace becomes a cosy cartel.

“An advertising ban would discourage new players from entering the market and would stifle innovation. A ban on sponsorship would have a disastrous effect on the economy, from broadcasting companies to the local pub football team. These sort of unintended consequences are not discussed in the British Medical Journal editorial. The authors seem intent on applying the anti-smoking blueprint to alcohol on the pretext of reducing underage consumption of alcohol, which has been falling for many years in any case. The rhetoric of protecting kids can be used to justify almost any nanny-state regulation, but it will ultimately lead to everybody being treated like children.”

Notes to editors

The British Medical Journal’s editorial,“Alcohol marketing: grooming the next generation”, can be viewed here once embargo lifted.

To arrange an interview with an IEA spokesperson, please contact Stephanie Lis, Communications Officer: 0207 799 8900 or 07766 221 268.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems.

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