1. Does alcohol marketing influence young people
2. How is labelling regulated in Europe?
3. What are the objectives of EUCAM?
4. What is EUCAM?
5. What is the effect of labelling/health warnings on alcoholic products?
The relationship between alcohol marketing and alcohol consumption is too complex for a straightforward yes or no.
Most econometric studies provide little evidence of an effect of alcohol advertising (Hastings et al., 2005). These econometric studies generally examine the effects of sales of alcoholic beverages and advertising expenditures in a market. These econometric studies, however, tell us nothing about the effect of marketing on youngsters, since all conclusions are drawn at the population level.
Observational studies are used to study differences within a specific (age) group. It is examined whether a higher exposure to alcohol marketing (advertisement) increases the alcohol use in adolescents. Studies with a structural equation model sometimes find a reciprocal effect between exposure to alcohol advertisement and alcohol use. Heavy drinkers are often more aware of alcohol advertisements and appreciate these advertisement more. Consequently, it is important to examine the effects of alcohol marketing with longitudinal studies in which causality can be established (Smith & Foxcroft, 2007).
Two systematic literature studies focussed on longitudinal studies measuring the impact of alcohol advertising (Anderson et al., 2009, Smith & Foxcroft, 2009), both of these studies found that longitudinal studies consistently suggest that exposure to media and commercial communications on alcohol is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink alcohol, and with increased drinking amongst baseline drinkers. Anderson et al. ads: “Based on the strength of this association, the consistency of findings across numerous observational studies, temporality of exposure and drinking behaviours observed, dose-response relationships, as well as the theoretical plausibility regarding the impact of media exposure and commercial communications, we conclude that alcohol advertising and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol” (Anderson et al., 2009).
Anderson P, de Bruijn A, Angus K, Gordon R, Hastings G. Impact of Alcohol Advertising and Media Exposure on Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2009.
Smith L, Foxcroft D. The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health. 2009;9(1):51.
2. How is labelling regulated in Europe?
EU policy on health warnings on alcoholic products
DG Sanco, the Directorate General on Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission state in their report on Labelling of February 2006 that Health warnings could be an effective mean to inform consumers of alcoholic beverages about risks associated with inappropriate consumption of alcohol. The report mentions no possible effects of introducing health warnings besides informing consumers.
The European Parliament rejected calls from its own Health Committee to introduce standardised EU-wide health warnings on alcoholic drinks in September 2007. Instead, MEPs asked the Commission to initiate "a comparative study on the impact and effectiveness of various information and communication means, including labelling and advertising, applied in member states" and to publish the results by 2010.
In January 2008 the European Parliament decided to approve with a proposal to improve the current situation concerning the listing of ingredients of premixed alcoholic beverages in an attempt to conciliate the consumers' needs for information with the specificities in the production of such products. According to the proposal, it will be mandatory to label a set of nutrients (energy, total fat, saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugars and salt) in the front of the package. There is a minimum font size of 3 mm for lettering on the labels, and mandatory back-of-the-pack guideline with the daily amounts (GDAs) estimating average requirements for energy for men and women aged between 19-50, of normal weight and fitness. Alcoholic drinks, except mixed products - qualified as alcopops - are currently excluded from the proposal. A Commission official referred to both the "complexity of production methods" and "political choice" as justification for allowing this derogation for wine, beer and spirits from the directive.
National policy on health warnings in European countries
Since 2005 alcoholic drinks carry a health warning for the protection of pregnant women in France. According to a report of DG Sanco the labelling measure proposed by the France government will be an obstacle to the free movement of goods, but the measure is said to be justified and proportionate to protect public health and therefore in accordance with Article 30 of the Treaty.
After the rejection of integrating health warnings in the EU by the European Parliament, different Member States took initiative to introduce alcohol health warnings themselves.
3. What are the objectives of EUCAM?
EUCAM is set up to collect, exchange and to promote knowledge and experience about alcohol marketing throughout Europe. The knowledge partly results from ELSA, the European project that brought together NGOs and governmental officials in order to evaluate the existing regulations regarding alcohol marketing. The objectives of EUCAM are:
1. Promoting the Monitoring of Alcohol Marketing
EUCAM aims to create opportunities and to promote monitoring of alcohol marketing in Europe in order to gather reliable information about the volume and content of alcohol marketing and about the functioning of the existing procedures related to the regulation of alcohol marketing.
2. Promoting and disseminating impact research
EUCAM aims to be an easy accessible source of current information and knowledge about the impact of alcohol marketing in European countries.
EUCAM publishes summaries on recent scientific studies on its website together with overviews of reports written by NGOs, governmental organizations and the alcohol industry. In addition, EUCAM updates its overview on alcohol marketing regulations in Europe.
4. What is EUCAM?
The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing or EUCAM was established in 2007 by the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) and operates under the support of the following NGOs: AV.OG.TIL, IOGT-NTO, Alcohol & Society Denmark, Eurocare Italia, NTAKK, Addiction Switzerland.
The impact of health warning labels on drinking behaviour is shown to be insignificant in many studies (Grube & Nygaard, 2001; Agostinelli & Grube, 2002). However, many studies show a greater awareness among the consumers of the risks highlighted in the warnings (Stockwell 2006).
Warnings on tobacco packages were shown to be more effective. They have the potential to strongly influence the decision making process to quit smoking (Wilkenson & Room, 2009; Willemsen, 2005). The greater effectiveness of the tobacco health warnings could be explained by several factors:
• The size and the positioning of the message labels are clearly specified in the Directive. This avoids minimizing and misplacing the messages. In addition, it requires short and easy to understand messages.
• The messages are different and rotating, covering the most harmful health impacts of smoking (European Union, 2001).
Different target groups such as teenagers (McKinnon et al., 2000) and pregnant women were examined in different studies conducted in the US and in Europe. Evidence of awareness and recall of the messages was found among these target groups (Hankin et al., 1993; Guillemont & Léon, 2008). Telephone surveys conducted in 2004 (before the implementation of the French warning label) and in 2007 (after the introduction) showed that this label increased risk awareness. Additionally, the social norms supporting abstinence during pregnancy increased (Guillemont & Léon, 2008).
In Germany, one study conducted by the Federal Institute for Health Education looked at the effect of the age limit label on alcopops. It showed that 17% of the 12-17 years old alcohol consumers renounced to buy alcopops due to this label (BZgA, 2005).
In Australia, alcohol standard unit labelling (1 unit = 10g pure alcohol) of alcoholic beverages became
mandatory in 1995. Tracking research found evidence of increasing awareness of the concept of “standard drink” since the introduction of the labels (Loxley et al., 2004). A recent study confirmed these results.
However, the researchers found out that the standard drink label helps young people to choose the strongest drinks at the lowest cost (Jones & Gregory, 2009).
In the UK, the 2007 self-regulation agreement was studied by the Campden and Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA). Results showed that most of the manufacturers did not follow the agreed format and content of the labels. Only 2.4% of the samples carried the Chief Medical Officers (CMO) lower risk guidelines in the agreed format (CCFRA, 2008). „Alcohol Concern‟ (UK national agency on alcohol misuse) conducted a survey on labelling of alcoholic beverages in the UK. The results are worrying and show the limited interest of a considerable number of producers on this issue (Alcohol Concern, 2009).
More recently research into the effects and possible implementation of warning labels on alcoholic beverages has been undertaken in Australia. Findings of a survey by Pettigrew et al. (2014) of more than 2000 drinkers suggests that awareness will increase, especially when the messages are more specific – such as "alcohol increases your risk of bowel cancer" rather than a more general "alcohol causes one in 20 cancer deaths".