Alcohol Action Ireland, the national independent advocate for reducing alcohol harm, welcomes a new report from the World Health Organization: Reducing the harm from alcohol – by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion: a technical report.
The report highlights the increasing use of sophisticated online marketing techniques by alcohol producers and the need for more effective regulation to be an integral part of public health strategies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. It shows that young people and heavy drinkers are increasingly targeted by alcohol advertising, often to the detriment of their health.
This technical report describes alcohol as “a commodity of concern to public health” and draws attention to the fact that alcohol products are increasingly being marketed across national borders – often by digital means – and often regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment in receiving countries.
The report highlights that while alcohol is rated as one of the most harmful psychoactive substances for global health, controls on its marketing are weak and that some population groups need protection against alcohol marketing. One such group is children and adolescents, but others in need of protection are dependent drinkers or people with alcohol use disorders and those in recovery. It reaffirms that the public health interest in
protecting minors and people with alcohol use disorders is served by strong national regulation of alcohol marketing.
Ireland, through the Public Health Alcohol Act, 2018, has enacted legislation to ensure children and adolescents have limited exposure to alcohol marketing. However, much of the provisions enacted over three years ago, have yet to be commenced by the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD. These include statutory controls on the specific Content of Advertising (Section 13) and a Broadcast Watershed (Section 19) prohibiting TV alcohol advertising before 9pm.
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022, currently before the Oireachtas, offers further opportunity to bring about meaningful controls to prevent children being targeted by alcohol marketing and crucially, prevent the collection and analysis of data on users habits and preferences.
Commenting on these matters, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action, said:
People, and particularly parents, are acutely aware of the risk to their children from such excessive and persistent exposure to alcohol marketing, and have consistently supported measures to curtail such exploitative marketing. What is needed now, more than anything, is leadership by government to proceed with laws that the Oireachtas have already passed, that will address these concerns.
This comprehensive report details the full extent of the way that alcohol is being marketed across national borders – often by digital means – and often regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment in receiving countries. It highlights how increasingly sophisticated advertising and promotion techniques, including linking alcohol brands to sports and cultural activities, sponsorships and use of e-mails, SMS and social media, are being used to increase customer loyalty and gain new customers. It shows that young people and heavy drinkers are increasingly targeted by alcohol advertising, often to the detriment of their health, and highlights the need for more effective national regulations and better international collaboration.
The full report can be downloaded at:
Alcohol Action Ireland have produced a supporting blog titled:
Why aren’t we willing to protect children from profiling and targeting by corporate forces selling harmful products such as alcohol, betting and junk food?