Alcohol advertising and promotion consultation: stakeholder engagement summary - 24 January 2023

Minutes from the ministerial roundtable with public health stakeholders on 24 January 2023 to discuss the consultation on potential restrictions to alcohol advertising and promotion.

Attendees and apologies

  • Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport
  • Richard Foggo, Director of Population Health, Scottish Government
  • Scottish Government officials
  • Alcohol Focus Scotland
  • Deep End Group
  • NCD Alliance
  • Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Scottish Alcohol Counselling Consortium
  • Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs
  • Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems

Items and actions

The Minister thanked attendees for their time and opened the meeting with an explanation of the purpose of the roundtable. Officials then provided an overview of the consultation.

Attendees noted that they were happy with the wide-ranging nature of the consultation. However, it was felt that more recognition of how alcohol advertising and promotion impacts the whole population was needed.

Attendees expressed concerns about the strength of alcohol industry opposition to the consultation and the proposed restrictions. They noted the importance of ensuring balance to both sides of the argument when analysing the responses to the consultation.

The Minister was clear that there was no hierarchy of voices and that all responses to the consultation would be taken into account and analysed.

Attendees noted their perception of the alcohol industry’s reaction to the consultation – that the Scottish Government (SG) should focus on treating harmful drinkers instead of adopting a whole population approach, which prevents people from becoming harmful drinkers. Attendees believed that this perception could lead to ‘othering’ and worsen issues around stigma of those who drink harmfully.

The Minister endorsed the World Health Organization's recommended whole population approach to reduce overall consumption and prevent people from developing harmful drinking patterns. 

The Minister also noted that any action to restrict alcohol advertising is not a silver bullet and would form part of a comprehensive approach, including tackling poverty and providing accessible and high-quality alcohol treatment.

Attendees stressed the importance of the economic argument to introduce restrictions, due to the financial impact alcohol harm has on public services. They noted that there are numerous ‘hidden harms’ from alcohol that are often not addressed or discussed but have a significant impact, including adverse childhood experiences, trauma and sexual assault.

Attendees suggested a focus on where alcohol-free spaces currently exist could be helpful framing for thinking through any future proposals. They pointed out that many environments that should be alcohol free have become inappropriately linked to alcohol, including school events (e.g. fetes and raffles) and the workplace.

The Minister thanked attendees for this useful framing.

The Minister thanked the group for sharing their views and encouraged all of them to respond to the consultation directly.

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