Australia just got their first fully independent alcohol marketing watchdog. The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) is an innovative new project from the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth in collaboration with Cancer Council Western Australia.  The AARB will judge community complaints about alcohol advertising and will deliver determinations, free of industry influence.   “The alcohol industry has had a free run with advertising and marketing for too long, and alcohol promotion is virtually uncontrolled,” said Professor Mike Daube, Director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and spokesperson for the Public Health Association of Australia. “The industry-based Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) is absolutely inadequate when it comes to reining in the industry’s promotional activities. The code is voluntary, does not cover all forms of advertising or all alcohol advertisers, does not address issues such as placement, and has no powers to penalize advertisers that breach the code – in short, it’s useless,” he said. The Alcohol Advertising Review Board has been developed in response to these concerns, and to provide a transparent, independent adjudication system for alcohol advertising. The Board was launched by children’s health advocate and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley who will chair the Board. “Children and young people are being exposed to promotion of alcohol in advertising, in sport, on billboards, on buses, in bus shelters – almost wherever they look. The community, and parents in particular, are rightly concerned at the tsunami of alcohol promotion to which our children are exposed,” Professor Stanley said. “Currently, there are no serious constraints on alcohol promotion. The Australian Medical Association believes that the alcohol industry’s self-regulation of advertising has failed demonstrably, and there is not the faintest chance that their system will ever work effectively,” said Professor Geoff Dobb, AMA Federal Vice-President “This board will also highlight the fact that more action is needed to pull the alcohol industry into line. We believe that it is time for government to act and apply regulations to the promotion and marketing of alcohol where the industry itself has failed,” he said. The Content Code to be used by the new board uses only provisions from existing alcohol advertising codes from jurisdictions with regulatory systems similar to Australia’s, including New Zealand, the UK and Canada. “The alcohol and advertising industries in these countries have supported the application of these codes to their advertising; so we will use codes accepted by the industry either here or in similar countries to judge their advertising content,” Professor Daube said. “The new Alcohol Advertising Review Board will offer the community the opportunity to register their concerns on the basis of sensible codes, processes independent of the drinks industry, and speedy adjudication. “We know that the alcohol industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars promoting its products – some specially designed to be attractive to young people. Our aim is that by shining a light on the worst of alcohol promotion we can bring about some of the changes that the industry will not make without public naming and shaming,” Professor Daube said. The public can direct complaints about alcohol advertising and promotion to www.alcoholadreview.com.au.
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