ABC Sunshine Coast By Tara Cassidy  16-04-2020

A national alcohol research body has slammed retailers using coronavirus-related marketing to boost sales, including ads it claims promote drinking as a solution to isolation boredom and depression.

Key points:

  • A research group wants alcohol retailers banned from making references to depression and isolation in marketing material
  • New figures suggest Australians are drinking more during the coronavirus shutdown, but the alcohol peak body disputes the claim
  • A WA retailer was recently found to be in breach of advertising codes over social media posts that appeared to encourage heavy drinking

A number of businesses have begun using coronavirus-related terms in online marketing, including advertising “survival kits” and “isolation six-packs”.

Sponsored content, like this image spotted on Facebook, has sparked calls for alcohol retailers to be locked out of the lockdown->

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) chief executive Caterina Giorgi said the material was “concerning and abhorrent”.

“We’re seeing this marketing from a range of different providers, a lot of online sales companies, wine companies, particularly, and also from bottle shops,” she said.

An alcohol advertisement displaying six wines and the caption "iso six pack".

“Some shared posts about the amount of alcohol that you could consume while you’re in isolation.

“One business advertised an isolation ‘survival kit’, and we think at a time when people are genuinely worried about getting sick, and potentially even dying from a virus, selling an alcohol ‘survival kit’ is particularly abhorrent behaviour.

“It’s actually a practice that is more widespread than we thought.

“Across the Easter weekend I was absolutely bombarded with alcohol social media marketing that mentioned isolation or coping with stress and anxiety by using alcohol.”

Peak body disputes figures

According to FARE, new data from research company YouGov shows one in five Australians have purchased more alcohol than usual during the covid-19 pandemic, 70 per cent are drinking more alcohol than normal, and 33 per cent are now using alcohol daily.

National peak body Alcoholic Beverages Australia said it did not agree that Australians were drinking more during the pandemic, but said businesses should not be using any

“The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code prohibits all forms of marketing that encourage excessive consumption and the industry needs to be mindful of this at all times,” Alcohol Beverages Australia chief executive Andrew Wilsmore said.

“DrinkWise, an industry-funded body, continues to educate the community about the need to be moderate if consuming alcohol, particularly in the current environment as Australians self-isolate.”

Mr Wilsmore said that while the data may have suggested an increase in packaged liquor or home delivery sales, that did not necessarily equate to Australians drinking to excess.

“Our beer, wine and spirits-producing members are all telling us that the loss of sales from the closure of bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants has only marginally been made up for by an increase in packaged retail liquor sales,” he said.

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