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.

The article can be downloaded via the Online Wiley Library or have a look at our database of scientific publications.

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.”

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For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Hastings or Alison Douglas, please contact Gillian Bell on 0141 572 6293 or email: gillianbell@alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk

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

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"

Research by Petticrew and others (2017) shows that Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs), that involve partnerships between the alcohol industry and local government, do not provide convincing evidence that CAPs are effective in reducing alcohol harms or anti-social behaviour.  In their research "Community Alcohol Partnerships with the alcohol industry: what is their purpose and are they effective in reducing alcohol harms?", published in the Journal of Public Health, Petticrew and colleagues aimed to assess the evidence of effectiveness of CAPs. CAP websites, documents and databases were searched, and CAPs were contacted to identify evaluations and summarize their findings. Out of 88 CAPs, three CAP evaluations were found which used controlled designs or comparison areas, and further data on 10 other CAPs. The study concludes that despite industry claims, the few existing evaluations do not provide convincing evidence that CAPs are effective in reducing alcohol harms or ASB. Their main role may be as an alcohol industry corporate social responsibility measure which is intended to limit the reputational damage associated with alcohol-related ASB. David Jernigan added a link to a piece the AMA did years ago to try to warn about this. He writes "Our stance in the US is that it is sometimes possible to work with alcohol retailers, because in the US they are statutorily forbidden from having ties to the producers or wholesalers. However it is not possible because of deep conflicts of interest to work with producers or wholesalers." http://alcoholpolicymd.com/pdf/foe_final.pdf Tom Babor adds "In addition to David’s advice, there is a section in Chapter 10 of ANOC2 called “Community-level approaches.”  It describes the evidence in support of community mobilization, voluntary “accords” and other measures to reduce harm by means of collaboration among community groups, retail establishments, academics and government officials.  At the time of the review (2010) the evidence for these measures was mixed, and none of them involved the big producers.  Theoretically, they could be effective if the partners agreed to implement evidence-based practices of known effectiveness.  If the Community Alcohol Partnerships are not evidence-based, and if there is any suggestion that they are being used for CSR or brand marketing, they would seem to be counter-productive." The article (full text) can be downloaded via this link. The article has been included in our scientific publications database. 
Authors: M. Petticrew, N. Douglas, P. D’Souza, Y.M. Shi, M.A. Durand, C. Knai, E. Eastmure, N. Mays Title: Community Alcohol Partnerships with the alcohol industry: what is their purpose and are they effective in reducing alcohol harms? Journal: Journal of Public Health, pp. 1–16, doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdw139 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Background:  Local initiatives to reduce alcohol harms are common. One UK approach, Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs), involves partnerships between the alcohol industry and local government, focussing on alcohol misuse and anti-social behaviour (ASB) among young people. This study aimed to assess the evidence of effectiveness of CAPs. Methods:  We searched CAP websites and documents, and databases, and contacted CAPs to identify evaluations and summarize their findings. We appraised these against four methodological criteria: (i) reporting of pre–post data; (ii) use of comparison area(s); (iii) length of follow-up; and (iv) baseline comparability of comparison and intervention areas. Results: Out of 88 CAPs, we found three CAP evaluations which used controlled designs or comparison areas, and further data on 10 other CAPs. The most robust evaluations found little change in ASB, though few data were presented. While CAPs appear to affect public perceptions of ASB, this is not a measure of the effectiveness of CAPs. Conclusion: Despite industry claims, the few existing evaluations do not provide convincing evidence that CAPs are effective in reducing alcohol harms or ASB. Their main role may be as an alcohol industry corporate social responsibility measure which is intended to limit the reputational damage associated with alcohol-related ASB. The article (full text) can be downloaded via this link.
In a recent study, Addiction Switzerland provides an overview of the challenges linked to online alcohol marketing. The main findings of the research are presented below. The study consists of four parts:
  1. (Non systematic) review of the literature on the impact and the strategies of online marketing for alcohol
  2. Monitoring of online alcohol marketing via selected websites and Facebook pages
  3. Overview of the legal regulation of online alcohol marketing in Switzerland and the self-regulation of the industry
  4. Online mystery-shopping
 
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  Link to the reports: Synthesis: Marthaler, M. und Zobel. F. (2016): Alkoholmarketing und –Verkauf über das Internet: Eine Auslegeordnung. Synthese der vier Teilprojekte. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Review of the literature: Marthaler, M. (2015): Online-Alkoholmarketing. Strategien, Wirkung und Regulierung. Literaturreview. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Monitoring of the alcohol marketing on the internet: Marthaler, M., Mendez, N. und Zobel, F. (2016): Beobachtung des Alkoholmarketings im Internet. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Regulation of alcohol marketing in the internet: Marthaler, M. (2015): Alkoholwerbung im Internet. Rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen in der Schweiz, Selbstregulierung der Alkoholindustrie und Richtlinien der social media-Plattformen. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Online mystery-shopping: Marthaler, M. und Mendez, N. (2015): Online Testkäufe. Verkauf von Alkohol über das Internet. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] See also http://www.addictionsuisse.ch/
The Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Practices in Africa (MAMPA) Project was a public health surveillance program devoted to monitoring alcohol marketing activities in the African region as well as youth exposure to these marketing activities. Data on alcohol marketing was collected in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, the Gambia, Kenya, Malawi and Namibia. The main conclusions of this independent analysis of this MAMPA data are:
  • 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.
  This secondary analysis of the original MAMPA marketing data confirms the conclusions of the original MAMPA report, in that it provides strong evidence of code violations in all media evaluated, and suggests that exposure to potentially harmful alcohol marketing content is widespread in six of the seven countries studied. These reports also raise questions about the effectiveness of current industry efforts to regulate alcohol marketing. The report (full text, including an executive summary) can be downloaded via this link. 

Authors: Kate Robaina, MPH, Thomas Babor, PhD, MPH & Jonathan Noel, MPH (2016).

Title: Evaluating compliance with alcohol industry self-regulation in seven countries in Africa. An external evaluation of the MAMPA (Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Practices in Africa) project. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Executive summary

Introduction
The Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Practices in Africa (MAMPA) Project was a public health surveillance program devoted to monitoring alcohol marketing activities in the African region as well as youth exposure to these marketing activities. The first project report was the subject of a World Health Organization (WHO) technical meeting in Brazzaville in 2012, where it was recognized that MAMPA had methodological limitations that precluded definitive conclusions about the extent to which alcohol marketing in four countries within Africa violated international guidelines regarding the exposure of young persons to potentially harmful advertising content. It was recommended that content of advertisements should be analyzed using a coding scheme developed by a panel of experts.

Following the meeting, the WHO Regional Office for Africa asked researchers from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine to systematically evaluate the marketing materials collected as part of the MAMPA project, and to expand the study to include the second wave of data collected from three other sub-Saharan African countries: Kenya, Malawi, and Namibia.

The purpose of this report is to describe the results of an independent analysis of the MAMPA data. The specific aims of the re-analysis of the MAMPA marketing data were: 1) to provide estimates of the prevalence of code violations in alcohol advertisements within and across these seven African nations, 2) to determine which sections of the Code were violated most often; 3) to determine if different producers and media had more violations than others; and 4) to test the feasibility of a new standardized rating procedure to evaluate code violations in alcohol marketing materials (Babor, Xuan & Damon, 2013a). Developed initially for television and print media, the procedure is applied for the first time in this study to radio ads and outdoor advertisements.

Methods
Ethnographic field methods were used to collect marketing materials from rural and urban areas of seven countries: Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, the Gambia, Kenya, Malawi and Namibia. These countries were selected to provide a range of social availability climates (according to religion and culture) and regulatory environments (ranging from a ban on alcohol advertising to only partial restriction).

Examples of unique marketing materials (N=282) used by both domestic and foreign alcohol producers were obtained by trained observers recruited from public health NGOs and research NGOs working on alcohol prevention and operating at the national level within each country. Observers were trained to collect digital recordings of visual stimuli across four types of media: TV, radio, print and outdoor advertising. In order to conduct this secondary analysis of the data collected in the original four MAMPA countries and in the three additional countries, all unique alcohol ads from each country were identified from the available recordings and abstracted into individual video, audio, or image files.

Because of between-country variation in alcohol marketing regulations, a set of guidelines developed by the alcohol industry (ICAP’s Guiding Principles: Self-Regulation of Marketing Communications for Beverage Alcohol) were chosen as the standard code to compare all advertisements. Using an objective Delphi rating procedure developed and validated in prior alcohol marketing research (Babor, Xuan & Proctor,
2008; Babor et al., 2013a), the ads were subjected to an evaluation by 9 trained raters across two rounds, the second of which allowed the raters to see the average ratings of the group. Each rater had experience in public health, substance use, or public health, and was considered to have the necessary expertise to protect vulnerable populations. Raters were from Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and the US. Interrater reliability between the raters was assessed using violation level and item-level data and was found to be high.

Results
In total, 282 unique examples of alcohol advertising were analyzed. Observers collected the largest number of marketing examples in Uganda (25.2% of all examples) and Nigeria (24.8%). The Gambia, where there is a ban on alcohol advertising, contributed only 1.4% of the total ads collected. Over seventy percent (70.6%) of ads collected from all countries were obtained from outdoor media (billboards, posters, signage, etc.).

Overall, 78 advertisements (27.7%) were found to contain at least one violation, representing an industry compliance rate of 72.3%. Advertisements collected from Kenya were the most likely to contain a violation. Guiding Principle 5, which refers to “the effects of alcohol,” accounted for the largest number of violations (77 ads). This guideline was most often scored as a violation because of the suggestion that alcoholic beverages can enhance attractiveness and/ or remove social or sexual inhibitions (n=51) and/ or presenting alcohol as necessary for social success or acceptance (n=63). The second most frequently violated guideline was Guiding Principle 3 (69 ads), which speaks to health and safety aspects in marketing communications. This principle was most often violated for presenting alcohol as a stimulant, sedative or tranquilizer (50 ads), and suggesting that alcohol can “prevent, treat or cure illness or resolve personal problems” (29 ads).

Violation rates significantly differed between media (p = <.001), with television ads having the highest proportion of violations (72.2%) and outdoor ads having the lowest (21.6%). Certain types of outdoor ads, however (e.g. billboards and posters), contained higher violation rates (37.3% and 30.8%, respectively).

Conclusion
The findings suggest that code violations of the ICAP Guiding Principles were prevalent in the four types of media sampled during the MAMPA project in the seven countries. It is interesting to note that the country with the fewest marketing materials recorded (n = 4) was The Gambia, which is a Muslim country with a ban on most forms of advertising. Despite the limitations of the prior MAMPA project and the current re-analysis, this research establishes a basis for a monitoring and regulating alcohol advertising in African countries. The methodology offers a systematic way to evaluate media advertisements of alcoholic beverages to determine whether their contents comply with generally accepted guidelines for responsible advertising practices.

Based on the evidence described above, governments and policymakers should give serious consideration to the key messages emerging from the Consultative meeting on addressing alcohol marketing in the African Region (WHO, 2012) and from the PAHO Expert Meeting on Alcohol Marketing Regulation (PAHO,
2016), which are consistent with the well-documented premise that alcohol is not an ordinary commodity (Babor et al., 2010) and should not be marketed as such.

These findings provide evidence of violations in the seven countries studied and 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.

Our secondary analysis of the original MAMPA marketing data confirms the conclusions of the original MAMPA report, in that it provides strong evidence of code violations in all media evaluated, and suggests that exposure to potentially harmful alcohol marketing content is widespread in six of the seven countries studied. These reports also raise questions about the effectiveness of current industry efforts to regulate alcohol marketing.

The report (full text) can be downloaded via this link. 

Leading public health experts warn that youth around the world are exposed to extensive alcohol marketing, and that current controls on that marketing appear ineffective in blocking the association between youth exposure and subsequent drinking. Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for young males aged 15-24 in nearly every region of the world, and young females of the same age in the wealthy countries and the Americas. The experts call for governments around the world to renew their efforts to address the problem by strengthening the rules governing alcohol marketing with more effective independent statutory regulations. Their call coincides with the publication of a series of reports in a supplement to the scientific journal Addiction that presents the latest evidence on alcohol marketing and its impact on children. Key findings from the collection of peer-reviewed manuscripts include:
  • 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 Addiction supplement comprises 14 papers, with research presented from around the world. Lead editor Professor Thomas Babor, of the University of Connecticut, says: “Governments are responsible for the health of their citizens.  No other legal product with such potential for harm is as widely promoted and advertised in the world as alcohol. These papers provide a wealth of information to support governments in their efforts to protect children and other vulnerable populations from exposure to alcohol marketing.” As an example, the marketing activities of Heineken can be described. International experts consider it a catastrophe that Heineken goes further and further in terms of marketing, in particular at Formula 1 sports. Every year, Heineken reaches around 400 million TV viewers worldwide. Wim van Dalen, President of EUCAM and Director of the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP says: “This form of sponsoring reaches millions of minors worldwide. Furthermore, alcohol is associated in a positive way with driving – this is totally unacceptable.” Chris Brookes of the UK Health Forum noted that “Governments have previously approved self-regulatory measures on alcohol advertising; however, we can no longer say that they might work to protect our young people – they don’t. In a literature review of more than 100 studies, none was identified that supported the effectiveness of industry self-regulation programmes.” The papers offer guidelines to developing more effective alcohol marketing regulations:
  • 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.
The journal supplement is funded by Alcohol Research UK and the Institute of Alcohol Studies, with the authors and editors of the supplement giving their time to produce these papers pro bono. The papers originated in work undertaken by the UK Health Forum to bring EU and US alcohol policy leads together, with funding from the EU. The specific papers were developed for a meeting on alcohol marketing convened by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  This collection of papers represents the highest level of scholarly attention devoted to this issue that has been brought together in the pages of one scientific journal. -- Ends – This is a verbatim copy of the press release that has been published here: http://www.addictionjournal.org/press-releases/current-controls-on-alcohol-marketing-are-not-protecting-youth-warn-public-heal  For editors: 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 Media seeking interviews with lead author Prof. Thomas Babor, Chair, Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, University of Connecticut, can contact him by telephone (+1 860 679 5459) or email (babor@nso.uchc.edu). The UK Health Forum is a registered charity whose mission is to operate as a centre of expertise, working with and through their members to contribute to the prevention of the avoidable non-communicable diseases - coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, respiratory diseases and vascular dementia. http://www.ukhealthforum.org.uk Alcohol Research UK is an independent charity that tackles alcohol-related harm by funding high quality, impartial research. http://alcoholresearchuk.org The Institute of Alcohol Studies is a registered charity (number 1112671) aiming to educate, preserve and protect the good health of the public by promoting the scientific understanding of beverage alcohol and the individual, societal and health consequences of its consumption and promoting measures for the prevention of alcohol-related problems and to promote, for the public benefit, research into beverage alcohol and to publish the useful results.  http://www.ias.org.uk/ Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2016 ISI Journal Citation Reports ranking in the substance abuse category for both science and social science editions.  www.addictionjournal.org
Criticism of EUCAM on research “Social Media Age Check Alcohol-adverteerders” by R2 Research commissioned by STIVA in the Netherlands.  STIVA (Foundation for Responsible Alcohol consumption), an association of Dutch manufacturers and importers of beer, wine and spirits, commissioned research institute R2 Research to study the scope of alcohol marketing through social media. The conclusion of this study states that the national Advertising code for Alcoholic drinks, which has been amended in 2012, protects minors sufficiently against advertisement through social media. The STIVA website states that 98,5% of advertisements of alcohol brands are seen by people of 18 years or older, and thus the percentage of under aged people being reached by social media alcohol advertisements is only 1,5%.[1] Strikingly, these results are contrary to earlier peer-reviewed, scientific research published in reputable scientific journals. For example, according to research by De Bruijn et al., conducted in four European countries including the Netherlands, young people are frequently exposed to online alcohol marketing.[2] High exposure of young people to online alcohol marketing is confirmed by several studies, for example the longitudinal European research by De Bruijn et al.[3] and research by Winpenny et al.[4] Also, this study by R2 Research evokes many methodological questions by EUCAM (European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing):
  1. STIVA only published a short summary of the results and a brief description of the methodology of the study, which makes it not possible to verify how the research has exactly been conducted. It also makes it impossible to replicate this research, a generally recognized principle of scientific research. EUCAM contacted STIVA for access to the original report, but received a negative response.
  2. The short summary given by STIVA does not indicate how is dealt with the so-called ‘inter-rater reliability’ in the analysis of a total of 5815 statements (2620 beer brands, 695 wine brands, and 2500 distilled liquor brands). Social media marketing of nine alcohol brands on four social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) have been analysed at 3 different moments. Per moment, profiles of 100 ‘commenters’ on the social media advertisement were manually viewed. However, it is not clear how many researchers have been involved in this study and in what way it has been attempted to limit the differences in these measurements, which are likely to be performed by a number of different researchers.
  3. The STIVA study raises questions about how the age of the social media users is determined. The summary mentions that in case of doubt about the age,  it is tried to establish the age reaching the profile through another channel. However, how is this done exactly, and through which other channel? Also, in what cases was there doubt about the age, based on what? And in how many cases has this occurred, and in how many cases was it not possible to establish the user’s age through another channel?
  4. The study does not present a complete and realistic image of the exposure to alcohol marketing through social media, because only people who responded to the advertisement by means of a ‘comment’, ‘like’ or ‘share’ have been included in the study. However, the researchers did not look at the ‘followers’ of the alcohol brand on the social media channels. The reason for this according to the researchers, is that in this way “it can be assumed that they have actually seen the advertisement message”. There is some truth in that, but young people can frequently be exposed to alcohol marketing through social media by simply following these channels, without having actual interaction.
  5. The study was conducted at three different moments, between April and September 2015. These moments are close to each other, whereas it is now presented as if the amended Advertising code for Alcoholic drinks had a positive effect over the past five years. The study also does not describe the times at which the social media advertisements were analyzed. For example, was this during the day, when most young people are at school?
  6. Earlier research has shown that many young people on social media lie about their age to gain access to these channels.[5]-[6] For that reason, an age on social media, says not much about the actual age of an user. This finding undermines the whole foundation of this study Moreover, many users on social media have a private profile, and therefore the personal information is not visible. The report states that it was not in all cases possible to analyze 100 commenters per measuring moment; sometimes because there were no more (or no) responses available and sometimes because relatively many users protect their profile. In those cases, the research period has been extended or a more qualitative analysis has been used. However, when was this the case, what was the consequential attrition and what did this more qualitative analysis look like?

European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) Supporting organisations: Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP, Alcohol & Society Denmark, AV.OG.TIL Norway, IOGT-NTO Sweden and Eurocare Italia

Contact: D. Lenssen MSc LL.M, Researcher, eucam@eucam.info Postbus 9769, 3506 GT Utrecht


[1] http://stiva.nl/nieuwsberichten/zelfregulering-alcoholmarketing-social-media-al-5-jaar-succesvol/ [2] De Bruijn, A., Engels, R., Anderson, P., Bujalski, M., Gosselt, J., Schreckenberg, D., Wohtge, J. & De Leeuw, R. (2016). Exposure to online alcohol marketing and adolescent’s drinking: a cross-sectional study in four European countries. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 1-7, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agw020 [3] De Bruijn, A., Tanghe, J., De Leeuw, R., Engels, R., Anderson, P., Beccaria, F., Bujalski, M., Celata, C., Gosselt, J., Schreckenberg, D., Słodownik, L., Wothge J. & Van Dalen, W. (2016). European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use, Addiction, 10.1111/add.13455 [4] Winpenny, E.M., Marteau, T.M. & Nolte, E. (2014). Exposure of Children and Adolescents to Alcohol Marketing on Social Media Websites. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 49(2), 154–159, doi:  10.1093/alcalc/agt174 [5] O’Neill, B., Grehan, S. &  Ólafsson K. (2011). Risks and safety for children on the internet: the Ireland report. LSE, London: EU Kids Online. [6] Landon, J., Graff, H. & Westerman, L. (2015). Alcohol marketing and young people – a literature review and mapping exercise. UK Health Forum for Public Health England.