Time For Meaningful Restrictions On Alcohol Advertising
Advertising and promotion of alcohol causes harm. The harm disproportionately affects children and young adults, as alcohol marketing contributes to drinking at a younger age and in greater volumes, which contributes to more harmful patterns of drinking over their lifetime. We know that Māori children are more exposed to alcohol marketing that others, which subjects them to particular risk. This state of affairs appears to breach the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Te Tiriti O Waitangi. Surely this is enough to make change urgent. But, as well as this, alcohol marketing also harms adults, particularly those who are trying to drink less, or stay sober.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) administers a system of voluntary codes, including the Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion that sets out the standards for marketing of alcohol. If you, the public, want to spend your time reading the Code, monitoring alcohol marketing, and making a complaint to the ASA, they may accept that there are grounds to proceed (or not), may decide it is a breach (or not) and may do something about stopping it (or not). Usually it will be too late anyway, as the average time to a decision is more than 6 weeks. No monitoring or vetting of advertising is done by the agency. And who is the ASA? It is a non-governmental body made up of industry interests, including alcohol producers and alcohol advertising industries with a flagrant conflict of interest.
Unbelievably, that is all NZ has to curb alcohol advertising.
The ASA has just released a new version of its Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion, following a submission process that was boycotted by a number of organisations and individuals on the grounds that it would make no difference, because it is not the codes themselves that make the system ineffective.
The chair of Alcohol Action NZ, Dr Tony Farrell, says “Alcohol Action has been advocating for evidence-based policy to protect the population from the harms of alcohol for more than a decade, and regulation of marketing has always been part of our 5+ solution to alcohol-related harm, as there is good evidence to support it.”
“Regulation of marketing is also considered by the World Health Organisation to be one of the “best buys” to reduce alcohol harm” he added.
In response to the release of the ASA report, opposition to the current system and support for reform has been voiced by the New Zealand Medical Association, Alcohol Healthwatch, Hapai Te Hauora, the Cancer Society of New Zealand, and the Health Coalition Aotearoa.
Alcohol Action NZ urges the government to meet its commitments, take the advice of the Law Commission, the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship and the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, and get rid of the alcohol industry free-for-all that we live in.