Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Alcohol and gambling products are a potential risk for addiction, and the Codes contain specific social responsibility rules to mitigate risk of harm. As a broad summary, ads for alcohol or gambling cannot show irresponsible use of the products and behaviours that might enable or trigger addiction, with specific examples including:

  • Alcohol and gambling should not been shown to take priority in life or provide an ‘escape’
  • Neither should be seen to enhance physical qualities, confidence, or sexual success
  • Alcohol cannot be implied to have therapeutic qualities, or portrayed as capable of changing mood, physical condition or behaviour or as a source of nourishment

For example, the claim “People are not addicted to alcohol or drugs, they are addicted to escaping reality" (Drink Doctor Ltd, 24 May 2017) was considered by the ASA to not only encourage excessive drinking but also suggest that drinking provides a solution to personal problems and therefore ruled against the ad in which it appeared.

Sometimes advertisers may want to take a tongue-in-cheek approach, but must take appropriate care. In 2013, the ASA rejected the advertiser’s argument that ads which stated “I’d dump my boyfriend for more Fireball cinnamon whisky” and “The only thing in life more important to me than Fireball is…” had been written in jest and would not be understood by consumers to mean that alcohol should take priority in life, or that it was indispensable (Hi-Spirits Ltd, 17 July 2013).

Advertisers must also take care not to depict addiction (including drug addiction) as glamorous or desirable. Although considered under the BCAP Code, a 2011 TV ad for a perfume called ‘Belle D'Opium’ which stated "I am your addiction, I am Belle D'Opium" was ruled to breach the Code because the ASA considered that the female character’s actions simulated drug use. Had the ad appeared in non-broadcast media, it seems likely that the decision would have been similar under the CAP Code.

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