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Alcohol’s bloody toll could be stumps for ads in sport

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The AMA has reiterated its call for fundamental shift in social attitudes to alcohol, including its close association with sport, following a tragic spate of alcohol-fuelled assaults and deaths during the Christmas-New Year period.

Two young man have been killed and several more left fighting for their lives in a string of violent attacks related to alcohol across the country, prompting calls for governments to do more to curb access to alcohol and for the community to re-think its approach to drinking.

In a bloody tally of alcohol-related injuries during the festive season, Irish backpacker Thomas Jay Keaney, 23, died a week before Christmas after being assaulted in Perth, while 18-year-old Daniel Christie died following an unprovoked attack in Sydney’s Kings Cross on New Year’s Eve, a tourist visiting the Gold Coast on 29 December was put in an induced coma to treat brain injuries sustained in an attack, and a 23-year-old man was also treated for severe head injuries following an attack outside a pub in Bondi on 14 December.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said the sight of young men with shattered skulls and suffering severe brain trauma was depressingly common for emergency workers and medical staff, and they were becoming increasingly fed-up with the heavy toll of death and injury related to alcohol.

“We see the results of that on every Friday and Saturday night in every capital city and, sadly, New Year’s Eve was a good example of what happens on an occasion when the misuse of alcohol occurs,” Dr Hambleton told ABC radio. “Now, our police suffer, our emergency departments suffer. We’re needlessly spending money to counteract the effects of alcohol and the alcohol-related violence on our community.”

Dr Hambleton said it was time for the community to discuss the many aspects of the nation’s drinking culture, including the legal drinking age.
In 2012 the Association released a major report on the alcohol industry’s use of social media to promote its products to young people, and last October it repeated its call for a major parliamentary inquiry into alcohol advertising, including getting rid of a loophole that allows alcohol companies to advertise during live sports broadcasts, circumventing a ban on alcohol promotion before 8.30pm.

Dr Hambleton said the insidious association between sport and drinking was being exploited by alcohol companies to market their products, particularly to young people.

“There’s [alcohol brand] logos on uniforms; there’s alcohol advertising in breaks; there’s alcohol on billboards at the back of the sporting event. It links sport with alcohol, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you need to have alcohol and sport together,” he said. “There’s strong evidence that the more young people are exposed to alcohol over time, the earlier they start drinking, the more they drink, and the more alcohol-related harm they experience,” he said.

The Australian Greens have taken up the call, and plan to move for a Senate inquiry into the promotion of alcohol to children when Parliament resumes next month.
Greens acting leader Senator Richard Di Natale told the ABC the major sporting codes were “very much tied up with” the alcohol industry.

“The time’s really come to look at the relationship there and to decide whether we’re going to start to put the breaks on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of alcohol products that target young children,” Senator Di Natale said. “Closing the bizarre loophole that exists at the moment that says you’re not allowed to advertise to young children during children’s viewing times, but will make an exception for televised sport, seems to be one obvious area where action is needed.”

Adrian Rollins

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