Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) claims new research calling for a blanket ban on alcohol advertising in a bid to curb underage drinking is not based on fact and ignores government statistics that show underage drinking is in steady decline.
The research in question is a series of peer-reviewed studies published by international journal Addiction, which found a link between alcohol marketing and youth drinking.
The research also found that self-regulatory measures by the alcohol industry are failing to protect vulnerable populations such as children, and concluded that global action on alcohol marketing is needed now to prevent continued exposure to these vulnerable populations.
“The most effective response to alcohol marketing is likely to be a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship, in accordance with each country’s constitution or constitutional principles,” the authors noted.
However, ABA executive director Fergus Taylor said the suggestion that current self-regulatory measures are ineffective and that further regulation is needed in Australia to curb underage drinking are wrong.
“Current regulations to protect children are highly effective, and there is compelling data to support this,” he said.
“Underage drinking is in steady decline across the country and has been for some time. The fact that this decline has occurred during a period of increased alcohol advertising is a clear indication that regulations in place work, and work well.
“Anti-alcohol activists have been trying for years to blame alcohol advertising as the cause of underage drinking, but the inconvenient truth for them is this claim is simply not supported by official data.”
Taylor pointed to the latest stats from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, which show that fewer people aged 12 to 17 years old are drinking alcohol, and the proportion in this age group abstaining from alcohol has risen significantly.
“The age at which younger people have their first drink has also steadily risen and binge drinking has also been steadily declining, he said.
“In Australia, alcohol advertising and marketing is vigorously and successfully regulated by a strict, independent system in the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code. Further robust regulations exist in federal competition and consumer legislation, and state fair trading legislation, the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics, and the Outdoor Media Association Code of Ethics.
“State and territories’ liquor licensing authorities also have the capacity to ban alcohol products if they breach a range of conditions, including inappropriate marketing or appeal to children.”
Through initiatives such as DrinkWise, Taylor said the alcohol industry is also targeting the established causes of underage drinking – parental behaviour and peer group influence – with advertising campaigns that highlight to parents how their drinking habits influence their children’s attitudes to alcohol.
“Without question, continuing downward trends in underage drinking is an important national responsibility, requiring a combination of education and strict enforcement on underage sales, and the alcohol industry is committed to ensuring this continues to occur,” he said.