Sports not for sale to the alcohol industry

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Sport, music and the arts all constitute absolutely key pillars of our culture and we cannot continue selling them to alcohol brands if we truly want to modify our relationship with alcohol, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland (CPsychI) has said.

From Irish Medical Times

The call was made in its submission to the Working Group on Regulating Sponsorship by Alcohol Companies of Major Sporting Events, in the Department of the Taoiseach, prepared by the College’s Faculty of Addiction Psychiatry, which has been calling for a ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship since 2008.

The evidence indicating that sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies is associated with increased alcohol-related harm for children and adolescents has grown since 2008, according to the CPsychI, which has welcomed the Government’s consideration of this measure as part of the draft Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

The submission comes as a special report published in the BMJ this week (BMJ 2014;348:g3772 doi: 10.1136/bmj.g3772) concludes that while Brazil may be favourites to  win the 2014 World Cup, whichever team hoists aloft the trophy on July 13, the real winner will be the alcohol industry.

“Alcohol is certainly not all bad. As psychiatrists, we do however get to witness all that is bad about alcohol,” the College stated.

“In addition to treating people with alcohol dependence, we also work with patients whose abuse of alcohol greatly hampers the treatment of their coexisting depressive, anxiety or other mental health disorder. We are acutely aware of the increased risk of suicide which alcohol brings to these patients.”

Psychiatrists also witness the damage alcohol inflicts on those around the drinker.

“To our great shame as a society we have tended to  ignore this huge issue of harm to others (including to children) due to alcohol, attaching too much reverence to the notion that individual adults should be permitted to drink as much as they want without external interference by society.”

Apart from increasing brand awareness and generating brand-switching among adults, the College said sponsorship and all other promotional activities had many other goals, including building political connections and media influence.

Sports sponsorship, which the College believed constituted the primary promotional activity for the big beer brands, allowed the drinks industry to bypass statutory regulation of other promotional activities such as advertising, especially given that children saw more alcohol adverts on television than adults, said the College.