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.”
For more information or to arrange an interview with Professor Hastings or Alison Douglas, please contact Gillian Bell on 0141 572 6293 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
- 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 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.