The UK media regulator Ofcom has announced new draft rules on the television advertising of alcoholic drinks.

Oftel said that subject to consultation responses, it was proposing significant toughening of the rules in relation to linking alcohol with anti-social or self-destructive behaviour; sexual content; irresponsible handling/serving of alcohol and youth appeal.

"There have been longstanding rules in all these areas but the wording has not proved effective in some cases. We anticipate that these changes, if adopted, would result in a marked difference in the tone of some advertising, particularly to the extent that it relates to or feeds off youth culture," a statement said.

However, it is also proposing to drop the rule which prohibits alcohol advertising from showing people drinking in the workplace and, subject to some safeguards, to allow children and teenagers to appear in alcohol advertising if they are part of a family group which is eating or socialising calmly and responsibly.

The draft rules have been drawn up in response to views expressed by the drinks industry and by consumer groups that existing rules, inherited from the Independent Television Commission, were insufficiently focused.

There have been particular concerns about discouraging advertising likely to be strongly attractive to children and young teenagers. Discouraging advertising which appears to condone anti-social behaviour related to drinking, particularly with implications of excess consumption.  Discouraging an implied linkage between drinking alcohol and sexual success.

Ofcom said it is now seeking views on proposals to strengthen the rules.

Ofcom's Partner, Content and Standards Tim Suter said: "The evidence from research, as well as a broad consensus of public and industry opinion, indicates there is a strong case for specific changes to the existing rules on these particular products."

The full consultation document and related research is available on Ofcom's website at www.ofcom.org.uk. The closing date for responses to the public consultation is 24 September 2004.