The Queen's Anniversary Prize

The University of Stirling has won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for ground-breaking social marketing research by the Institute for Social Marketing and Health. The Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education are awarded biennially to universities and colleges in the further and higher education sectors and are the UK’s highest form of national recognition open to academic and vocational institutions.

The prize is awarded for the Institute for Social Marketing and Health’s (ISMH) research into the effects of marketing on health and the effectiveness of policies designed to protect health by controlling this marketing. This research is globally recognised. It has played a major role in shaping understanding of marketing’s harmful influence on health and provides vital evidence to underpin policy and legislation to improve the health of current and future generations.

We are delighted to have won this highly prestigious honour, in recognition of our world leading research showing that children’s health must be protected from commercial marketing of alcohol, tobacco and junk food. The University of Stirling has a truly global reputation for its research in social marketing and this award further highlights our commitment to conducting innovative research which has a positive impact on society.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac Principal and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Stirling

Protecting young people from harmful exposure to tobacco

Research by ISM in the 1990s was among the first in the UK to show how tobacco advertising exerted a powerful influence on young people and to shed light on how tobacco companies deliberately used marketing to encourage children to smoke. ISM’s long-running tobacco control research programme, funded by Cancer Research UK since 1999, has demonstrated that restrictions on tobacco advertising have helped to reduce young people’s susceptibility to smoke in the future.

The findings have also shown that further controls, such as stronger regulation on packaging, are still needed to protect children. Again, ISM has led the way here, with its pioneering research into consumer perceptions and usage of cigarettes in plain packaging, and in 2012 the Institute was funded by the Department of Health to conduct the first ever systematic review of the evidence on plain packaging’s public health benefits, which underpinned subsequent UK-wide consultations on the issue. In 2013 the Scottish government announced a commitment to plain packaging.

Before the ban on tobacco advertising was introduced, research on the impact of advertising on young people conducted by the ISM helped to change public attitudes. Expert evidence presented by Professor Hastings and his colleagues has stood up to examination by the Health Select Committee, at the European Commission and in the media, and has been tremendously helpful in making our case. In Professor Hastings particularly we have someone who can explain our position in the media, hold his own in debate with the big tobacco companies, and be confident talking to politicians at the highest level. That’s something we really value.

Dr Jean King, Cancer Research UK Director of Tobacco Control

Removing tobacco from point of sale

ISM research contributed directly to the development of the 2009 Health Act for England and Wales and the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010. The latter is the most significant piece of Scottish tobacco control legislation since the 2005 move to smoke-free public places. Both Acts restrict the display and promotion of tobacco at the point of sale so as to make tobacco products less attractive and accessible.

They are built on the Institute’s research which showed that point of sale display is a key part of the tobacco industry’s marketing and has a clear effect on both adult and youth smoking. ISM is currently working on a major multi-institution study to evaluate the effects of this legislation in Scotland.

I am delighted that the Government have based their proposals in the Bill on research. Some of the most important research has been carried out by Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Centre for Tobacco Control Research. He investigated the complex relationship between tobacco marketing at the point of sale and young people’s intention to smoke. He found that: ‘In 2006, almost half—46 per cent of UK teens—were aware of tobacco marketing at point of sale’. Moreover, the likelihood of a young person stating an intention to smoke may increase by 35 per cent with each brand that they can recall having seen at the point of sale.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Hansard–House of Lords Debates, 4th Feb 2009: Column 728).

Under the influence: demonstrating the power of alcohol marketing

ISM’s work on alcohol began 25 years ago examining what, if any, connection there is between the marketing of alcohol and young people’s drinking. The Institute conducted some of the UK’s, and the world’s, first studies to examine teenagers’ perceptions of alcohol advertising. These showed that, at that time, young people were very familiar with, and strongly attracted to, adverts for popular brands of beers, ciders and other types of drink. The studies also demonstrated, for the first time, that this attraction to alcohol advertising correlates with the onset and extent of teenage drinking – and that this link is independent of other factors (such as peer and parental attitudes and behaviour) which are known to be influential. In 2006, with Medical Research Council National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) funding, ISM conducted the UK’s first longitudinal study on alcohol marketing which demonstrated that alcohol marketing was not only independently correlated with teenage drinking, but also predated and predicted its onset and extent. ISM is currently conducting a further NPRI study to evaluate the impact of alcohol marketing controls in the UK.

Changing the face of food marketing

SM research into the effects of food marketing on childhood obesity has shaped the regulatory debate both here and overseas and laid the foundations for policies which have changed the face of this marketing worldwide.

In 2003, the Institute was funded by the Food Standards Agency to conduct the first-ever systematic review of evidence on the relationship, if any, between food marketing and childhood obesity. In the UK, the media regulator, Ofcom, used the review as a basis for the world’s first statutory regulations on food advertising to children, which prohibited the promotion of foods high in fat, salt and sugar around children’s television programmes. Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has twice commissioned‌ updates of the original review and used these as the basis for its policy development. Specifically, in December 2008, ISM research formed the basis of an international meeting to devise global guidance on food marketing. The resulting recommendations were subsequently ratified by the World Health Assembly and formally published by WHO in 2010 as a Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children’. This was the first-ever global guidance on food marketing and obesity.