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Link between ads and youth drinking disputed

News, 12 January 2017

SYDNEY: The battle between public health experts and alcohol brands could take a new turn as new peer-reviewed studies assert a link between exposure to alcohol advertising and youth drinking.

According to B&T Magazine, a collection of peer-reviewed studies published this month in academic journal Addiction's issue 'The Regulation of Alcohol Marketing: From Research to Public Health Policy', a "significant association" between exposure to alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour among young people was found.

The report subsequently calls for more government intervention and a global ban on all alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

"Of the 57 studies of alcohol advertising exposure, high levels of youth exposure and high awareness of alcohol advertising were found for television, radio, print, digital and outdoor advertisements. In a literature comprising more than 100 studies, none were identified that supported the effectiveness of industry self-regulation programs," the journal included in a supplement. (The special issue of Addiction can be found here.)

Australia's alcohol industry has disputed the findings. In a statement to AdNews on the issue, Fergus Taylor, executive director of Alcohol Brand Australia, said: "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."

Australia's advertisers are governed by the The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code, which complements existing Australian law and has specific terms regarding responsibility to minors. AdNews also noted that advertisers are beholden to the AANA Code of Ethics and media-specific codes relevant to the placement of marketing, as well as participating in stringent self-regulation. Some Australian states have also taken action to regulate alcohol advertising further.

"The suggestion current controls in place are ineffective and that further regulation is needed in Australia to curb underage drinking are wrong," Taylor said.

"Current regulations to protect children are highly effective, and there is compelling data to support this. 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."

Data sourced from B&T, Ad News; additional content by Warc staff