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Watchdog looks at rapid drinking'

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Portman Group, the marketing watchdog of the drinks industry, has questioned whether the promotion of shooter' and slammer' shots should be curbed, as it prepares to publish its latest Code of Practice.

The group, which has just appointed Sir Richard Tilt, a former head of the Prison Service, as the new chairman of its independent complaints panel, began a consultation in October last year, and will publish the fourth updated edition of the code in the summer, coming into operation in early 2008.

Portman Group chief executive David Poley admitted that there was some confusion over the responsibilities of the group and the new Drinkaware Trust. He explained that The Portman Group's role is to ensure responsible marketing by the alcoholic drinks industry, while the Drinkaware Trust will promote responsible consumption to consumers.

As a result, the group's current strapline, Promoting Responsible Drinking', and its logo will be changed. A relaunch is planned for the end of March. Poley said: The Code of Practice will become the major part of our work from now on.' The code has not been revised for five years.

Other topics that feature in the consultation include:

website age verification pages (AVP): should the Code require visitors to self-verify their age on UK websites for alcoholic drinks - or is this an ineffective tool against underage access?

sexual success: the Code forbids products that have any suggestion of an association with sexual success', such as Shag Lime. Some firms had suggested the view was too restrictive and have asked for a review

replica kit sponsorship: The Portman Group asked whether drinks companies who sponsor sports clubs should be allowed to produce branded children's replica kits as it promotes alcohol to under-18s.

The Portman Group has handled more than 150 complaints since it was created in 1996 and ruled against 70 products. In 2006, there were only eight complaints - six of which involved teddy bear and Champagne gift packs. Poley said: We've had fewer complaints but we operate an advisory service which had a record 210 requests for advice last year. I think the industry has become very good at complying with the Code and so the public has little to complain about.'

It is also aware that the low complaint level might be due to poor awareness of the Code. Last year the group distributed posters to alcohol agencies, licensing and trading standards officers and will continue with this initiative in 2007.