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Alcohol promotions shot down under new reforms

By Neil Merrett , 22-Jun-2007

The party could be over for manufacturers of alcoholic shots and shooters in the UK, as an industry body this week called time on any industry practices that promote rapid drinking.

Under new initiatives announced Tuesday by industry social responsibility body the Portman Group, from 1 January 2008, any alcohol marketed within the UK will be prohibited from encouraging consumers from consuming in a single go. The announcement comes as alcohol producers face increasing pressure to promote responsibility in how their products are consumed, by restricting how they advertise and promote their brands. The decision is part of a number of proposals designed to curb growing levels of irresponsible drinking, particularly in teenagers, and comes on the back of moves to restrict advertising on children's replica sports shirts. Portman Group chief executive David Poley said the latest measures were an attempt by the industry to step up protection for its consumers. "Downing drinks is potentially damaging because it can cause people quickly to get drunk," he stated. Though emphasizing the importance for individuals to take responsibility for how they consume drinks, Poley said that the industry did not wish to add to growing concerns over alcohol abuse. "In the end, only drinkers can control the way they drink," he stated. "Producers want to promote responsible behaviour and not a drinking style which can be harmful." The ban will cover how a drink is named and labelled, to sampling practices, websites, branded merchandise, and any form of promotional material. Any pre-packaged alcohol product found to breach these new guidelines by the drinks marketing body, the Independent Complaints Panel, will be removed from sale until it complies with the ruling. The new proposals will have some restrictions though. Complaints over how advertising promotes irresponsible drinking will remain under the jurisdiction of the Advertising Standards Authority. Individual promotions by bars and clubs will likewise be the responsibility of the British Beer and Pub Association's guidelines. Nonetheless, the restrictions could still have a detrimental affect on the UK spirit's market, which has seen strong growth in value over the last five years, according to consumer analyst Euromonitor. The Spirits category, which includes gins, vodkas, tequila and liquors, was in 2006 worth £8.5bn (€12.6bn) in the UK alone, from just £7.6bn (€11.2bn) in 2001, say Euromonitor figures.

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