New research published in the Clinical Medicine journal shows marketing has a significant influence on young people.
Evidence from 13 studies of more than 38,000 young people demonstrates that alcohol advertising affects uptake of drinking and also encourages heavier drinking.
Dr. Peter Anderson, a consultant in public health in Girona, Spain, and author of the article, urged policymakers to do more to protect vulnerable groups such as children and adolescents.
"Banning advertising that appeals to young people would lessen the attraction of drinking for children and adolescents. An EU-wide ban could prevent 5% of all alcohol-related ill health," he said.
Monika Kosinska, secretary-general of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) believes that a multi-pronged approach is needed in order to address the issue of alcohol-related harm.
"The European Union needs to take urgent action to reduce the health harms of alcohol misuse. An EU strategy must take into account the role of both promotion and pricing on levels of consumption and should not fail to address the issue of third-party harm," she said.
The European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD), an industry group working for safer alcohol consumption, last month published new guidelines for its members on online marketing of spirits.
The code of conduct says drinks companies should not target promotional activities at minors and avoid using cartoons and sporting figures that might be attractive to young people.
EFRD Chairwoman Elizabeth Crossick told EurActiv in an interview that the drinks industry could regulate itself and has been working to keep up to date with developments in digital mobile media (EurActiv 11/03/09).