February, 2016

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill: Marketing

Alcohol marketing, including advertising, sponsorship and other forms of promotion, increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol. Young people’s drinking patterns have a direct effect on their health, development and welfare. Therefore reducing children’s exposure to alcohol marketing is a child protection issue.

Yet every day, in numerous ways and through numerous media, children and young people in Ireland are continuously exposed to positive, risk-free images of alcohol and its use. Due to a lack of effective regulations, young people are poorly protected from these sophisticated and powerful influences on their drinking behaviour and expectations.

They are bombarded with positive images of alcohol through marketing of brands and products – in effect, the alcohol industry has become a child’s primary educator on alcohol. Marketing can shape youth culture by creating and sustaining expectations and norms about how to achieve social, sporting or sexual success, how to celebrate, how to relax and how to belong. The failure to protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with earlier and increased alcohol consumption.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill contains a number of important regulations that will reduce children’s exposure to alcohol marketing and move us away from many of the existing systems of industry self-regulation and voluntary codes, which have proved completely ineffective and are without meaningful sanction.

Breaches of the regulations governing alcohol marketing contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) will be subject to prosecutions under the criminal justice system. Some of the main regulations regarding advertising products in the Bill are:

  • Advertisements must only give specific information about the nature of the product, such as where it is from, its price, a description of the taste etc
  • Advertisements must contain health warnings regarding alcohol consumption, including during pregnancy, and a link to a public health website, to be set up by the HSE in 2016, giving information on alcohol and related harms.
  • Advertisements in cinemas will be limited to films classified as over 18s
  • There will be a 9 p.m. broadcast watershed for advertisements on television and radio
  • The marketing and advertising of alcohol in print media (both domestic and foreign publications) will be restricted in relation to volume and type of publication (e.g. no more than 20% of advertising space for alcohol products)

Restricting advertisements for alcohol products to content about the nature of products will mean that advertisements will be less likely to glamourise alcohol or making it appealing to children, as they will no longer see alcohol products aligned with physical performance, personal success, social success and a variety of other positive outcomes.

Similar restrictions on alcohol advertising content have been successfully in place in France since 1991, though the French laws go much further than what is proposed in Ireland and provide for no alcohol advertising on television or in cinemas, and no sponsorship of cultural or sporting events.

To further protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will prohibit advertising in certain places, including:

  • in or near a school
  • in or near an early years service (e.g. crèche)
  • a park, open space or playground owned or maintained by a local authority
  • on public transport
  • in a train or bus station, and at a bus or Luas stop.

In relation to the schools, early years services and playgrounds, alcohol advertisements must not be within 200 metres of the perimeter of the premises or grounds. A restriction on merchandising of children’s clothing which promotes alcohol consumption or bears the name of an alcohol brand or product is also included in the Bill.

While it does not ban alcohol sponsorship of sport, the Bill prohibits advertising in sports grounds for events where the majority of competitors or participants are children or directly on a sports area for all events (e.g. on the actual pitch, race track, tennis court etc.)

Learn more about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill by following this link.