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Awareness of alcohol marketing, ownership of alcohol branded merchandise, and the association with alcohol consumption, higher-risk drinking, and drinking susceptibility in adolescents and young adults: a cross-sectional survey in the UK
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  • Published on:
    Response to Tim Ambler, Adam Smith Institute

    Dear Editors,

    We note the comment from Tim Ambler (Adam Smith Institute) on our recent article about alcohol marketing exposure among 11-19 year olds in the UK. We thank him for his interest in the research and compliments regarding the data.

    We note the mutual interest in the topic given his previous roles as joint managing director for International Distillers and Vintners (now part of Diageo PLC) and self-reported involvement in the launch and marketing of a range of alcohol brands, both in the UK and internationally [1-3].

    We make several brief remarks in response:

    1) Throughout the paper, we only refer to an association between alcohol marketing and either consumption or susceptibility. It is not claimed that the analysis demonstrate a causal or directional effect, as is suggested in the comment. We are also transparent in the summary of strengths and limitations at the start of the article (which also features on the web page of the paper) and again in the discussion about the constraints of cross-sectional research to determine causality.

    2) Although the discussion suggests that further examination of the UK’s current self-regulatory system may be required, given the constraints of the research design, we limit these suggestions to reducing marketing exposure for an age-restricted product. This argument is valid based on the data presented, given that they show alcohol marketing exposure among young people under the minimum legal...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    All affiliations and details of the authors are reported in the manuscript.
  • Published on:
    Awareness of alcohol marketing

    The authors address an important area with valuable data. Although the front page makes it clear that only correlation (or association) is claimed, the conclusion goes much further and suggests that the data supports the view that curtailing drink marketing would reduce "consumption and higher-risk drinking in current [young] drinkers and susceptibility in never drinkers".

    However, it has long been established that users of products and brands are more likely to be aware of marketing for those products and brands than those who are not. The authors of this conclusion, regrettably, fall into the elementary confusion between correlation and causation. Of course usage and marketing awareness will be correlated, as this paper shows, but that says nothing about causality. Indeed causality could even run the other way, namely consumption causing consumers to pay attention to the marketing. It is a little surprising that this conclusion was approved by the reviewers.

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.