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This article was taken from BT News Online, 25th February
‘Great concern’ over children’s exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship
Alcohol sponsorship of sport is associated with risky drinking among school children and adult athletes, according to a report.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) said its review of seven studies, published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, found that each one indicated that exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship was associated with increased levels of alcohol consumption and risky drinking.
The seven studies included findings from 12,760 people in high-income countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Studies conducted in the UK found that among Welsh schoolchildren in Year 10, or aged 14 to 15, awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship was linked to a 17% higher chance of boys and 13% higher chance of girls getting drunk at the weekend.
The figures increased to 26% for boys getting drunk and 27% for girls when the same schoolchildren had both positive attitudes towards alcohol and awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship.
And among UK university sportspeople, those receiving alcohol industry sponsorship were four times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-sponsored sportspeople.
The report also included a study of schoolchildren aged 13 to 14 from four EU countries which found exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship when viewing a major football tournament was linked to a 70% increased chance of underage drinking.
Katherine Brown, the director of the IAS and the report’s author, said: “It is of great concern to see that sport, which should be viewed as a healthy, family friendly activity, is potentially putting our children and athletes at risk due to sponsorship deals with alcohol companies.
“There is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink at an earlier age and to drink more if they already do so.
“This is why the OECD and World Health Organisation have called on governments to investigate the introduction of alcohol advertising bans.
“Major alcohol brands are prominent in almost every high profile sporting event today, exposing millions of children to advertising and building positive associations that could be damaging in the long-term.”
Tom Smith, head of policy at the charity Alcohol Concern, said: “Alcohol sports sponsorship creates a positive association between drinking and sports that cannot be unlearned.
“Millions of children in the UK consume these positive drinking messages whilst innocently following their favourite teams and tournaments.
“It’s great to see the Scottish women’s football team have recently made a stand against alcohol advertising to ensure young girls aren’t exposed to, or endorsing alcohol brands via their kit.
“Sport should be an opportunity to motivate healthy positive behaviours amongst younger generations, not more drinking.”
Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the alcohol industry, said: “As the UK’s leading temperance campaigners, it is unsurprising that the IAS consistently ignore the official statistics which show significant and sustained declines in under-age drinking during the last decade.
“The IAS also fails to mention the real-world evidence that shows an alcohol sponsorship ban in France has had no effect on reducing under-age drinking.
“Alcohol sponsorship is strictly controlled in the UK to ensure children are protected and we have made good progress in tackling under-age drinking through education, enforcing strict ID schemes and by providing alternative activities for young people.
“This is about teaching responsible behaviour and supporting our young people as they progress to adulthood, not banning everything in sight.”