Press release by Eurocare
European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) welcomes the publication of the European Commission’s long-awaited report on alcohol labelling in line with Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. It is thanks to Commissioner’s Andriukaitis persistence that consumers might soon be better informed about what is in alcoholic beverages they drink.
Mariann Skar, Eurocare Secretary General said: ‘We welcome the report as it clearly recognises the need for better alcohol labelling and widespread support for it. Disappointingly, the conclusions do not seem to be in line as it asks for self-regulatory proposal from the industry. Self-regulation is not a suitable regulatory mechanism. Member States in the European Council should follow up and empower the European Commission to take regulatory actions’.
For the consumers to make a truly informed choice all alcoholic beverages should follow the current provisions in the Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, that is per 100ml.
Listing ingredients contained in a beverage alerts the consumers to the presence of any potentially harmful or problematic substances. Even more importantly, providing nutritional information such as energy content allows consumers to monitor their diets better, and makes it easier to keep a healthy lifestyle. Labels need to be regarded as an opportunity for impact over time, rather than setting the expectation that they will affect immediate behavioural change.
Alcohol contains a considerable number of calories, with an energy content 7.1 kilocalories per gram - only fat has higher energy value per gram (9kcal/g).
Europe is the world’s heaviest drinking region, with some European countries ranking around 2 times above the global average.
‘To date, European legislation has greatly failed to allow consumers to make an informed choice about the alcoholic products they are purchasing, we are hoping that publication of today’s report will be a first step to align alcohol with other food products’, said Mariann Skar, Secretary General of European Alcohol Policy Alliance.
In 2015 Eurocare conducted a consumer survey which found that only 24.7% of the respondents search for information online regarding ingredients or additives in their alcoholic beverages. Labels remain the best option to inform consumers at the point of sale and consumption about the nutritional value and ingredients. 50.4% of respondents indicated they would like to have more information about ingredient listing, 43.2% regarding calorie content and 37.9% nutritional value. Overall labelling information currently provided to the consumers is not sufficient.
European Alcohol Policy Alliance strongly believes that it is the right of the consumers to be allowed to make informed and easily comparable choices about the products they purchase. For the next year, we will be closely monitoring the industry’s voluntary actions.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare)
Mariann Skar Secretary General
GSM +32 (0) 474 830 041
The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) is an alliance of non-governmental and public health organisations with 60 member organisations across 24 European countries advocating prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm in Europe. Member organisations are involved in advocacy and research, as well as in the provision of information and training on alcohol issues and the service for people whose lives are affected by alcohol problems.
MP Erik Ziengs (Liberal Party) will shortly introduce a members bill to change the current Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act. Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP laid a hand on the text of the bill.
If the bill will be adopted, mildly alcoholic beverages as beer, wine and low alcohol content spirits can be sold off premise without licence everywhere (even on the street).
Furthermore, the bill of Ziengs makes it possible that every retailer can ask for a licence to serve alcoholic beverages in his shop, even spirits like whiskey and vodka.
Cafés and bars will be allowed to sell mildly alcoholic beverages (off premise) and liquor stores may serve alcohol (on premise) and are allowed to function as shop, post office or ticket shop.
The current Licensing and Catering Act has rules on the floor area, height and the presence of toilets. All these rules will be expired, causing many tiny bars, as you see them for example, in some developing countries.
Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: "The proposal of Ziengs denies the interests of public health, the effect will be that alcohol become more accessible for young and old, it will be more an everyday product. The bill will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in alcohol problems in the Netherlands. "
Source: http://www.stap.nl/en/news/ (in English) and http://www.stap.nl/nl/nieuws/persberichten.html/3490/5614/vvd-wil-alle-remmen-losgooien-bij-alcoholverkoop#p3490 (in Dutch)
A majority in the Dutch Parliament last week four motions regarding alcohol policy.
The motions request the government:
- to provide financial support for IkPas, a campaign to abstain for 30 or 40 days, and for the marketing monitoring project conducted by The Netherlands Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP;
- to examine which EU countries have adapted far-reaching measures concerning alcohol advertising (e.g. in the field of sport sponsoring);
- to study the effectiveness of the obligatory course on responsible drinking for licence candidates (and their staff);
- to send a letter to all municipalities that they should no allow that some entrepreneurs of non-food stores and other non-licensed retailers, sell and serve alcoholic beverages in violation of the Alcohol Licensing and Catering Act.
Removing alcohol adverts from streets and public transport, and phasing out alcohol sponsorship in sport are among the steps that should be taken to prevent alcohol companies grooming children.
In a report published today by Alcohol Focus Scotland, leading academics and health experts outline how the Scottish Government can reduce the unacceptably high levels of alcohol marketing that children and young people are exposed to.
Children are very familiar with and influenced by alcohol brands and advertising campaigns, despite codes of practice which are supposed to protect them. There is clear evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads children to start drinking at a younger age and to drink more if they are already drinking.
Alcohol Focus Scotland was asked by Ministers to facilitate an international expert group on alcohol marketing to advise on the most effective policy options available and how they might be implemented in Scotland.
The group’s recommendations include:
- removing alcohol marketing from public spaces such as streets, parks, sports grounds and on public transport
- ending alcohol sponsorship of sports, music and cultural events
- pressing the UK Government to introduce restrictions on TV alcohol advertising between 6am and 11pm, and to restrict cinema alcohol advertising to 18-certificate films
- limiting alcohol advertising in newspapers and magazines to publications aimed at adults
- restricting alcohol marketing on social networking sites
The report also recommends setting up an independent task force on alcohol marketing to remove the regulatory role of the alcohol industry.
More than 30 organisations, including Children 1st, the Scottish Cancer Prevention Network and the medical Royal Colleges, as well as the majority of MSPs (72), have pledged their support to end alcohol marketing in childhood. This report now outlines specific actions which could be taken to achieve that.
Professor Gerard Hastings, one of the group members and internationally renowned expert on social marketing, said:
“Self-regulation does not work; it will not control dishonest banks, over-claiming MPs or profit-driven multinational drinks companies. And yet we continue to rely on it to protect our children from alcohol marketing. It is no surprise that study after study has shown that, as a result, children are being put in harm’s way – and that parents want policy makers to be more courageous. Scotland now has a chance to grasp this nettle and show how independent statutory regulation of marketing can provide our young people the protection they deserve. The international community is trusting us to take the same public health lead we took on smoke-free public places and minimum unit pricing; let us show them that we will.”
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:
“An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option, yet we allow alcohol companies to groom our children from a young age. They are seeing and hearing positive messages about alcohol when waiting for the school bus, watching the football, at the cinema or using social media. We need to create environments that foster positive choices and support children’s healthy development. We hope Ministers will respond to this report and the groundswell of support for effective alcohol marketing restrictions in Scotland.”
Tam Baillie, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland said:
“I strongly support this report which provides clear evidence on the nature and reach of alcohol marketing and makes welcome and sensible proposals to safeguard our children. All children and young people have the right to good health and that must include the right to grow up free from commercial pressures to drink alcohol. The extent of the actions we take now are a good measure of the value we place on our children for the future.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Hastings or Alison Douglas, please contact Gillian Bell on 0141 572 6293 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- Alcohol Focus Scotland is the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. The report and summary Promoting good health from childhood, Reducing the impact of alcohol marketing on children in Scotland can be downloaded at: alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/news/scottish-government-urged-to-curb-alcohol-marketing-to-protect-children
- Or click here to download the report and summary via the EUCAM site.
- Members of the international virtual expert group have expertise in alcohol marketing research, policy and legislation, as it relates to the protection of public health, and the reduction of health and social harm caused by alcohol. A full list of members can be found in appendix 2 of the report.
- Marketing pledge wording: “I believe that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. All children should play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, protected from exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.” Full list of supportive organisations: http://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/campaigns-policy/alcohol-marketing/
- While some marketing restrictions require action at UK or European level, the Scottish Government has substantial powers over key areas of regulation. The report’s recommendations make reference to competence.
- Last month a series of reports were published in a supplement to the scientific journal Addiction that presents the latest evidence on alcohol marketing and its impact on children. The Addiction supplement, Alcohol marketing regulation: From research to public policy, is free to download from the Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.v112.S1/issuetoc
The pilot study by Jernigan and others (2017), focused on digital and social media and compared young people with adults on the amount of alcohol marketing they recalled seeing. Youth reported greater exposure to alcohol marketing and promotional content than adults in most media, including on the Internet. Furthermore, youth reported greater engagement with alcohol marketing online. This stresses the need to assure compliance with voluntary industry standards and to improve monitoring of alcohol marketing, especially regarding youth and the new media online.
A sample of 1,192 underaged youths and 1,124 adults completed an online survey, with questions about alcohol marketing in online as well as traditional media. A distinction in the questions was made between exposure (how often) and content (type) of alcohol marketing, and engagement with alcohol marketing.
Youth reported exposure to alcohol marketing in the last month was almost twice as much as exposure of adults on the Internet (29.7% versus 16.8%, p < 0.001). Youth interacted with alcohol-related online content in greater proportions than adults, such as celebrities using alcohol, celebrities wearing alcohol-branded items, pictures of celebrities showing the negative effect(s) of using alcohol, pictures of friends/peer using alcohol and pictures of friends/peers showing the negative effect(s) of using alcohol. Regarding the content of alcohol marketing, the difference between youth and adults was the most significant with content related to celebrities and alcohol.
The results show that youth were significantly, and twice as likely than adults to see or hear alcohol marketing on the TV, radio, billboards and especially the Internet. They also show that youth were more likely than adults to interact with online content of alcohol marketing.
These results are concerning, since youth in particular are vulnerable and susceptible to alcohol marketing, and age-gating on digital media are not that effective.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have a determinant role to play in preventing alcohol initiation and reducing alcohol related harm, especially in vulnerable groups such as women and youth. A new tool has been published to help NGOs monitor alcohol marketing.
NGOs can call for and help governments in adjusting their policies to improve the health of their populations through their active participation in public health activities. Reducing the population’s exposure to alcohol marketing can improve health and welfare. The tool published by the Norwegian organisation Forut can be downloaded here: "Monitoring Alcohol Marketing MARK – a tool for NGOs".
- (Non systematic) review of the literature on the impact and the strategies of online marketing for alcohol
- Monitoring of online alcohol marketing via selected websites and Facebook pages
- Overview of the legal regulation of online alcohol marketing in Switzerland and the self-regulation of the industry
- Online mystery-shopping
- The literature review highlights the use of internet as a new tool for alcohol marketing. Besides traditional websites, marketers rely on social media to reach a mainly young audience. Online marketing allows to interact with users who become ambassadors of the brands through liking, sharing and commenting posts from alcohol brands. One of the main issues is the user generated content, which is out of reach of any regulation or code. Research has shown that there is a correlation between the exposure to alcohol marketing and the onset of drinking and the amounts consumed. This correlation is even stronger when traditional marketing via newspapers, magazines etcetera is combined with online marketing.
- To generate an understanding of the marketing strategies for alcohol on the internet, monitoring of several brand websites and official Facebook pages over four months has been conducted. In general, the sites and pages respect the self-regulation codes, but the widespread use of lifestyle-advertisements suggests that these advertisements are also appealing to young people and even minors.
- There are several restrictions for alcohol marketing in Swiss law that also apply to online marketing, but the possibilities offered by the internet are difficult to regulate. The self-regulation codes only partially cover these gaps. One main point is the fact that user generated content is explicitly out of reach of these codes and the industry does not take responsibility for such content.
- A sample of online mystery shopping showed that it is very easy for minors to buy alcohol via the internet. In 11 of 12 cases minors could buy alcohol without having to prove their age. Therefore, Addiction Switzerland proposes to extend the "traditional" mystery shopping to online stores. Mystery shopping has proved to be an effective measure to sensitize outlets for respecting age limits.
- The findings of the report provide evidence of violations of industry self-regulation codes in the seven countries studied
- The findings points to the need for systematic surveillance of alcoholic beverage marketing to protect vulnerable populations, such as youth, who may already be experiencing problems related to their alcohol use.
- The report underscores the need for policy strategies to more effectively monitor and regulate alcohol advertising across all media outlets.
- The report points out that a variety of options exist, including complete bans on alcohol advertising.
- Exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with youth alcohol consumption
- Analysis of alcohol promotion during the 2014 FIFA World Cup indicates alcohol marketing practices frequently appeared to breach industry voluntary codes of practice
- Alcohol industry self-regulatory codes do not sufficiently protect children and adolescents from exposure to alcohol promotions, especially through social media
- The most effective response to alcohol marketing is likely to be a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship, in accordance with each country’s constitution or constitutional principles.
- Regulations should be statutory, and enforced by an appropriate public health agency of the local or national government, not by the alcohol industry.
- Regulations should be independent of the alcohol industry, whose primary interest lies in growing its markets and maximizing profits.
- A global agreement on the marketing of alcoholic beverages would support country efforts to move towards a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
- Collaboration with other population-level efforts to restrict marketing of potentially harmful products, such as ultra-processed food, sugary beverages, tobacco, and breast-milk substitutes, should be encouraged and supported.