The Australian Medical Association (AMA) recently held a national summit on Alcohol Marketing to young people at the Parliament House in Canberra. In association with 70 member organizations of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) this summit was the stage for the release of a communique calling for action on alcohol marketing as well as an AMA report which surveys the key features of contemporary alcohol marketing, reviews the research literature investigating the effects of this marketing on young people, and considers the need for new policy responses.
To address the adverse effects of alcohol marketing, the AMA report provides 11 recommended measures and policy options:
1. The regulation of alcohol promotion should be statutory and independent of the alcohol and advertising industries. Experience from within both Australia and overseas demonstrates that self-regulation is not the answer.
2. The introduction of meaningful sanctions for serious or persistent non-compliance with marketing regulations. Penalties should be commensurate with the size of the marketing budgets involved and the estimated exposure of children to the offending marketing messages.
3. The sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies and brands should be prohibited. Such sponsorship should be phased out, with organizations encouraged and assisted to source socially responsible alternative funding.
4. Sponsorship by alcohol companies and brands should be prohibited at youth, cultural and musical events.
5. Regulations need to be sufficient in scope to cover all forms of marketing and promotion. Regulations need to be expanded to incorporate point-of-sale promotions, branded merchandise, and new media and digital marketing, including marketing through social media, viral campaigns, and the use of data collection and behavioral profiling. Regulations need to be sufficiently flexible to adapt to new and evolving digital marketing activities.
6. The amount spent annually on marketing by leading alcohol companies should be collected and publicly disclosed, including expenditure on social media, online video, mobile campaigns, events sponsorship and product placement.
7. Given the cumulative effects of marketing, regulations need to limit the amount of alcohol marketing as well as its content.
8. Continuing research is required that examines the extent and impact of online and digital marketing, and the effectiveness of different regulatory approaches to this form of marketing.
9. Health promotion education addressing alcohol consumption needs to include a component that builds the critical literacy of young people.
10. Options to develop a cross-border, international response to alcohol marketing should be pursued. The Framework Convention of Tobacco Control provides an appropriate model for global governance to control alcohol marketing, and examples of possible standard-setting mechanisms including World Health Organisation regulations, ISO standards, and Codex Alimentarius Standards.
11. Preventing alcohol marketing to young people needs to be part of a comprehensive and multifaceted strategy addressing alcohol-related harms among young people in Australia.