Issue 8 / 7 March 2016

THE Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) is letting children down and should be abolished because of its alcohol advertising policies, says the CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation.

John Rogerson told MJA InSight that ACMA’s exemption that allows alcohol advertising during televised sports events before 8.30pm on weekends – a policy which had recently been extended from live events only to now include all replays — was “a disgrace”.

Last Thursday the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) released a new joint Alcohol Policy, in which they called for the phasing out of all alcohol sports sponsorships and the ceasing of advertisements during live games and broadcasts until after 8.30pm.

“The RACP has reviewed nine sports across six categories and found all were influenced by alcohol sponsorships and advertisements, either at the stadium or during television coverage,” a statement from the RACP said.

“Current regulatory loopholes approved by ACMA allow television advertising of alcohol during sports programs at times when children are likely to be watching. Primarily due to this loophole, it has been estimated that children aged under 18 years are exposed to a cumulative total of more than 50 million alcohol advertisements each year.”

Mr Rogerson said the loophole was a “a deliberate exemption by ACMA”.   

“The evidence is 100% crystal clear,” he said. “How can you allow any exemptions at all? At the end of the day it’s about greed and money. The sport, television, advertising and alcohol industries are in bed together to make money and they’re ignoring the impact on children.

“ACMA are not doing their job. They are letting children down and ACMA should be abolished. It’s a disgrace.”

A spokesperson for ACMA refused to comment, saying only that the Authority’s view was that alcohol policy was a “whole of government, holistic, platform neutral” issue. In a statement released at the end of 2015 in regard to children’s viewing of sport, ACMA said: “Replays of events and sports news/analysis programs do not attract the large child audience of popular live sporting events such as NRL State of Origin games, the AFL Grand Final and the NRL Grand Final”.

A sytematic review published late last month in Alcohol and Alcoholism confirmed previous research associating indirect exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship and increased levels of drinking among schoolchildren.

Mr Brian Vandenberg, President of the Victorian Branch of the Public Health Association of Australia, said that those advocating for tighter regulation of alcohol advertising were “massively outgunned” by the alcohol industry.

“We’ll never win until there is government intervention,” he told MJA InSight. “The fight against tobacco advertising showed us that cultural changes like this take time.”

Professor Tanya Chikritzhs, leader of the Alcohol Policy Research team at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, agreed that the current situation regarding alcohol advertising in sport was “insane”.

“We’re selling off the health and wellbeing of our future generations for the sake of profit,” Professor Chikritzhs told MJA InSight.

“I am extremely happy with what the Colleges have said in their new policy. This is what the now-defunct Australian National Preventive Health Agency called for before it disappeared.

“This takes political leadership and the RACP is a very powerful, very big voice that commands respect.

“This has to be sustained, though, because it’s going to be difficult to change. We need political champions.”

Self-regulation of the industries concerned was no solution, Professor Chikritzhs said.

“Self-regulation is equivalent to no regulation when profits and shareholders are involved.”

Professor Paul Haber, from the University of Sydney, and chair of the RACP’s alcohol policy committee, said the new policy covered other areas of concern, including the need for a comprehensive, evidence-based and national approach to combating the harms of alcohol; reducing the availability of alcohol through measures to restrict outlet density and trading hours; introducing universal volumetric taxation and a floor price for alcohol; and ensuring access to effective treatment services.

Professor Malcolm Hopwood, president of RANZCP, noted the significant role of alcohol in exacerbating mental health disorders in the community.  

“Australian society pays a huge price for its excessive use of alcohol,” he said.

A spokesperson for the federal Department of Health said: “The issue of alcohol advertising, including sponsorship in sport, is complex.

“It is also important that sports and alcohol companies take their responsibilities to both their participants and the public seriously when considering their commercial decisions.

“Recent evidence shows positive indications that many young people have been heeding warnings against excessive alcohol consumption. The proportion of young people consuming alcohol has decreased significantly in recent years.

“Many of the recommendations of the final Australian National Preventive Health Agency report … have already been implemented.”


Poll

Should the alcohol industry be involved in sports sponsorship or advertising?
  • No, it should go the way of tobacco advertising (87%, 154 Votes)
  • Yes, but more tightly regulated (13%, 24 Votes)

Total Voters: 178

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8 thoughts on “Alcohol advertising rules “a disgrace”

  1. R T Gun says:

    The data and discussion on deaths from alcohol make no mention of the deaths from ischaemic heart disease (and possibly from other causes also) avoided by light to moderate alcohol consumption. Even if the panel of experts doesn’t believe the epidemiology on this (some of the evidence comes from Kenneth Rothman, the doyen of US epidemiologicsts) the failure even to mention it signifies a lack of balance in this document.

  2. John Urlwin says:

    alcohol advertising may be a problem but gambling advertising and facilitation in sport broadcasting is also a disgrace.

  3. Stuart Paterson says:

    Let’s get rid of advertising of sugary drinks and other health risks too. Perhaps we could be ambitious and ban car advertising – maybe encourage people to eat healthily and ride a bike!

     

  4. Simon Strauss says:

    Alcohol is a drug and has been shown to cause more harm to our community than any other drug. Alcohol advertising should be restricted, plain packaging laws enacted and a range of programs is required to re-educate Australians towards de-socialising alcohol. Those that sell alcohol should be made aware of the harm they are causing and we should move towards condemning those that do. 

  5. Amelia Stephens says:

    There are no net benefits from alcohol consumption. There is no lack of balance in this article. Benefits published about alcohol are dubious at best, and the links to cancer are undeniable (http://wiki.cancer.org.au/policy/Position_statement_-_Alcohol_and_cancer) It is a toxin, a poison that has physical as well as emotional effects that can last a lifetime – and cost the health system a bomb. We need to let go of it as the crutch it has become and realise it is no different to cigarette smoking in its level of harm overall, likely worse.

  6. Dr Louis Fenelon says:

    In my life the campaign against alcohol has been strong, but the adverse medical and social impacts continue to grow. It really is not as simple as alcohol = bad. Neither is it as simple as restricting advertising = good. Alcohol advertising restrictions are not new and the increase in restrictions has not seen any real social benefit. It is important to consider the repercussions of social action. Once the pub was the man’s psychologist – a place to go to to debrief after work.  Men even went there to talk, a skill now lost to the gender. It is entirely plausible that the introduction of random breath testing put an end to an important social outlet and increased home alcohol consumption and the associated domestic violence issue. Now the pub is full of pokies, if it exists at all. Dad takes home twice as much alcohol from the bottlo as he would have had with his workmates and drinks in an environment of home stress with the tele ramming more bad news down his throat along with all the booze. Home alcohol consumption is advertising alcohol to children and you can’t stop that by banning it on TV and at the footy. What you can do is turn advertising over to upstanding companies with spare cash and their eyes on an innocent audience. Can the RACGP et al predict the social benefits when banks, insurance companies and the golden arches of future sadness take over advertising from the brewers?

  7. Warwick Jonathan Teague says:

    Thank you MJA Insights for providing prominence to the entirely laudable stance of the Australian Drug Foundation, RACP and RANZCP. I agree, ACMA is without excuse to continue to expose young Australians to the negativity of alcohol advertising, and would add to this the seductive dangers of sports gambling advertisements. Whether a live or TV spectator, the unremitting barage of betting information and aspiration poses threats to the well-being of Australians of all ages. I predict the usual objections of industry and others, but offer this perspective without any concern of bias or correction.

  8. Neill Kling says:

    Alcohol is a drug which costs society far more than it earns for the few. Society needs to change its values for alcohol consumption to decline… Advertising is about just that, getting people to want something they did not ‘know’ they needed. Begin by making alcohol intoxication ‘uncool’, unacceptable, and you have won held the battle…

    To seriously affect supply and demand requires something more… Political and societal will…. To Deal with strong commercial interested in the Sport , the ‘booze’, as well as the advertising industry.  

    We need restriction  of trade…  Limit hours bottle sites and pubs are open, limit bottle store density. Prohibition on suburban location of bottle stores… to do less just scratches the surface where it itches.

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