Fury over Disney
FROM the gold foil wrapping to the cork, the wire
tie, and the shape of the bottle it looks - and bubbles
- much like the real thing.
But Disney Partyfizz, a fizzy juice drink aimed at
the massive children's party market, has been seized on
by health campaigners as a potentially dangerous gateway
to alcoholism for youngsters.
The entertainment giant has been accused of acting
irresponsibly by creating a champagne-style drink for
children. Disney's detractors warn the product will
create a "dangerous mindset" among youngsters and
encourage early experiments with alcohol.
Tesco is among the retailers stocking the £1.99 bottles
and last night insisted the 'kiddie champagne' was safe
and would remain on its shelves.
The row follows rising concern about underage drinking
in Scotland. More than 40% of 15-year-olds in Scotland
regularly drink alcohol, with consumption higher among
girls than boys. Last week a report claimed alcohol, as
well as tobacco, was as dangerous as any illegal
Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland,
said: "It's irresponsible to market and package juice
for children as if it is alcohol, particularly by such a
famous global brand as Disney. Underage drinking is a
big enough problem in Scotland without products like
this being aimed at young children. We call on Tesco to
remove the product from its shelves immediately."
Law added: "It could lead to potentially dangerous
situations. A child could reach for a bottle of real
champagne at a family party thinking it's fizzy juice,
and pour himself or herself a glass. Parents should
consider the connotations before buying this product."
Campaigners have likened the lookalike bubbly to
controversial cigarette sweets, which are still sold to
children despite known risks. According to research
published in the British Medical Journal in 2000,
children who have used sweet cigarettes are more likely
to become adult smokers.
American researchers found that executives in the
tobacco industry regarded sweet cigarettes as good
advertising for future smokers. Withdrawing the
confectionery from sale could even reduce tobacco use
among young people, concluded researchers.
Professor Neil McKeganey, director of the Centre for
Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University, said: "It is
a matter of serious concern that Disney has chosen to
present soft drinks to young people that so very clearly
resemble alcoholic products.
"In Scotland we have a huge problem with underage
drinking. Some of our strongest alcoholic products have
penetrated the world of children and young people.
"The marketing of this product will only serve to
further young people's interest in alcohol and to
encourage the graduation from those products that
resemble alcohol to drinking the real thing."
Last week, lobby group Scottish Health Action on
Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) called for a Scottish
parliament inquiry into alcohol-related health problems,
which are responsible for 45 deaths in Scotland each
Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of SHAAP, agreed parents
should stay away from alcohol-style drinks. He said: "I
have concerns about this looking like alcohol or real
champagne. It fosters the ambition of celebrating
occasions with alcohol. It could introduce young
children to a model of drinking alcohol. Parents should
be encouraged to think seriously about this product's
connotations before buying it for their children."
Disney's foray into celebratory drinks for children
is part of the wider trend towards lavish kids' parties.
As well as increasingly exotic venues, the average party
bag now contains items worth £7.48, according to a
survey published earlier this month. Pressure to provide
upmarket trinkets means the gifts include sunglasses,
temporary tattoos, model cars and water pistols.
But Richard Lamming of the British Soft Drinks
Association said: "It's quite hard to see how this could
lead children off the straight and narrow. I don't share
the view that it will encourage children to drink
alcohol. These concerns are not well founded. I am sure
children are quite aware that they are drinking fizzy
apple juice and not alcohol. The whole point of the
drink is to let children have a bit of fun.
"I can understand there is concern about factors
influencing teenagers and children to drink. But this
product is not a risk factor."
Yesterday Tesco, which enjoys the biggest share of
the UK's supermarket industry, denied the product was
harmful to children. "You can buy many other products in
champagne shapes. One common example is chocolates. This
is because the shape of a champagne bottle is associated
with family celebration," said a Tesco spokesman.
A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "We are very
concerned about alcohol misuse, including anything that
would encourage those under the age of 18 to drink
No one was available for comment from Disney.
'It made me feel grown up'
THE girls from Glasgow watched, fascinated, as the
wire tie on the Disney Partyfizz bottle was unravelled.
The distinctive 'pop' of the cork drew an excited
shriek from the two friends, who burst into laughter.
"I want a bottle for my birthday next month to share
with my cousins," said Monica Perry, aged seven. "It
tasted like fizzy apple juice. I really liked it.
"It reminds me of champagne. The bottle shape and the
colour of the juice are the same. I've seen mummy and
daddy drink champagne at parties."
Mary Anne Keegan, also seven, wasn't convinced at
first. "It tasted a bit funny because I've never had
apple juice before," she said. "I thought it was
champagne when I first saw it. The bottle looks just
It was good fun. It made me feel a bit grown-up."
Her mother, Teri Smillie, rejected claims the product
could lead to underage drinking.
"It's just another way of making parties special for
kids," said Smillie. "It's not like parents are buying a
bottle for their kids to drink on a Friday night while
the parents sip their white wine."
Sweets with bitter taste
IN 1999, shops in Britain were flooded with chewing
tobacco sold in brightly coloured sweet-style packs.
The foil packets from Asia sold for as little as 20p,
with some bearing children's faces on the front. The
packets contained ground tobacco, often mixed with other
ingredients including betel nuts. Some were sweetened,
with one type tasting of chocolate.
Politicians called for an immediate ban on the
product, which was blamed for a rise in oral cancer
Sweet cigarettes, also known as candy sticks, are
still sold in small retail outlets today.
Lobby groups have called for the sweets to be banned
over concerns they can encourage children to smoke.
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