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ELSA Project: Alcohol advertisement regulations in Europe do not protect minors

Just after the approval by the European Parliament of its report on the EU Alcohol Strategy offering strong support for self-regulation, the results of a project funded by the Commission (ELSA project) show that there is no scientific support for the effectiveness of self-regulation and that the rules concerning alcohol advertisement in Europe do not protect minors sufficiently.

The ELSA project (Enforcement of national Laws and Self-regulation on advertising and marketing of Alcohol) is a two-year project funded by the European Commission that has assessed the enforcement of national laws and self-regulation on the advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages in all 25 Member States. The project also looked at the impact of advertising and marketing on the use of alcohol, particularly amongst young people.

The main conclusions of the project are the following:

- Exposure to alcohol ads leads to higher consumption

It appears from the study that young people are influenced by alcohol advertisement. An extensive new overview of scientific studies, which is part of the project, shows that exposure to, and enjoyment of alcohol commercials cause minors to develop more positive expectancies and attitudes towards alcohol, which in turn influences the onset of drinking age, as well as patterns and levels of alcohol consumption.

- European recommendations protect young people insufficiently

Although the European Council Recommendations of 5 June 2001, on the drinking of alcohol by young people (2001/458/EC), are integrated in the national legislation of many countries, it appears from this new study that these recommendations protect young people insufficiently. Firstly, because the Recommendations do not aim at restricting the volume of alcohol ads or limit the broadcasting times and secondly, because a reference to humour, which was found to be one of the elements that make ads attractive to young people, is missing.

- Support of the effectiveness of self-regulation is lacking

The study finds no scientific support for the effectiveness of self-regulation. This is in contrast with the assumptions of the alcohol industry, which often claims that the self-regulation functions well. There is no objective information available to which degree the national regulations adhere to. There are few countries in Europewhich monitor systematically the adherence to national regulations.


The European Union should take a leading role and harmonise the rules on alcohol advertising across the EU. Clear legislation must be developed to protect vulnerable groups such as children and young people. These regulations should be aimed at reducing the attractiveness of alcohol advertisements to minors but also at limiting the volume of advertising that reaches them. Systematic monitoring of compliance with the existing legislation is of vital importance.

The partners of ELSA together have succeeded to deliver the following products:

Final report:

Annexes to the final report:

Annex 1: Manual to Monitor Regulations on Alcohol Marketing in Europe
Annex 2: Regulation of Alcohol Marketing in Europe
Appendix: Regulations of Alcohol Marketing in 24 European Countries
Annex 3: Report on Adherence to Alcohol Marketing Regulations
Annex 4: The Impact of Alcohol Advertising
Annex 5: Appealing alcoholic beverages and marketing practices in Europe
Annex 6: Alcohol Marketing in Europe: Strengthening Regulation to Protect Young People

For further information on this project and to order hard copies of the report visit the project's website ( or contact STAP (National Foundation for Alcohol Prevention) at