Upset by the hard sell of 'soft' drinks

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
Cigarettes and alcohol have become a regular feature of the lives of Britain's 15 and 16-year-olds.

Almost all pupils polled in the Edinburgh University survey had consumed alcohol, and 36 per cent had smoked cigarettes, in the month prior to the survey. The findings have revived the issue of tobacco and drinks advertising.

The Portman Group, which represents 95 per cent of the UK drinks industry, has admitted that some companies are breaking its own code in pitching the new alcoholic "soft drinks" at children and teenagers.

While the sweet taste of these drinks appealed to teenagers, their marketing as the preferred choice of cool, sophisticated and glamorous young people was also significant, according to a study of 750 children in Dundee.

Alcohol Concern has labelled the adverts a "cynical attempt to hook young people" and has sent a catalogue of complaints to the Portman Group.

The Cancer Research campaign last week renewed its call for the Government to ban cigarette advertising to protect young people. This was prompted both by the Edinburgh University report, which showed an increase in girls' smoking, and a separate report in the British Medical Journal which found that cigarette advertising increased children's awareness of smoking.

It also showed that sports sponsorship linked smoking with desirable attributes such as strength and winning cricket matches and was likely to reinforce demand for cigarettes, if not to increase it.

Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell has refused to consider a ban on cigarette adverts, arguing that countries that have done so have reduced tobacco consumption less than Britain has. He believes it is up to people to change lifestyles, following government health education.

Labour opposes all forms of cigarette advertising and has promised to ban it.

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