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
New research by Noel and colleagues shows that violations of the content guidelines within self-regulated alcohol marketing codes are highly prevalent in certain media. Exposure to alcohol marketing, particularly among youth, is also prevalent. Taken together, the findings suggest that the current self-regulatory systems that govern alcohol marketing practices are not meeting their intended goal of protecting vulnerable populations. With governments relying increasingly upon the alcohol industry’s self-regulated marketing codes to restrict alcohol marketing activity, there is a need to summarize the findings of research relevant to alcohol marketing controls. This paper provides a systematic review of studies investigating the content of, and exposure to, alcohol marketing in relation to self-regulated guidelines. Reference: Jonathan K. Noel, Thomas F. Babor and Katherine Robaina, Industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing: a systematic review of content and exposure research, Addiction, (2016). DOI: 10.1111/add.13410 This article has been included in the EUCAM scientific publications database. The article can be downloaded in the Wiley Online Library.    
On basis of the evidence on the effectiveness of self-regulation, EPHA concluded that there is no justification for endorsing self-regulation as policy mechanism to deliver public health objectives.  As follow-up to the event "Self-regulation: a false promise for public health?", held on 18 October 2016 in the European Parliament, EPHA (European Public Health Alliance) published a briefing paper addressing the evidence on the effectiveness of self-regulation for attaining health objectives. EPHA concludes that, based on available evidence, there is no justification for endorsing self-regulation as policy mechanism to deliver public health objectives. Voluntary commitments have not delivered the required breakthrough to improve public health outcomes in the area of alcohol harm and unhealthy diet. It is stated that evolving away from the use of self-regulation in public health policy would be a logical next step. It would help cut ambiguity, allow attention to focus on the most effective ways of dealing with societal challenges and allow a consistent approach to emerge towards the divergent roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the process. Download the briefing paper via this link.  Event website
Authors: Jonathan K. Noel, Thomas F. Babor, Katherine Robaina, Melissa Feulner, Alan Vendrame, Maristela Monteiro Title: Alcohol marketing in the Americas and Spain during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13487OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Aims: To identify the nature of visual alcohol references in alcohol advertisements during televised broadcasts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament matches and to evaluate cross-national differences according to alcohol marketing policy restrictiveness. Design: A review was conducted of recent legal documents and court cases, as well as the activities of alcoholic beverage industries. Setting: Television broadcasts of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Mexico, Spain and the United States. Cases: Eighty-seven alcohol advertisements; 20 matches. Measurements: Quantitative rating scales, combined with the Delphi rating technique, were used to determine compliance of the alcohol advertisements with the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking's (IARD) Guiding Principles. Recordings of five matches from four countries were also used to identify the number of in- and out-of-game alcohol brand appearances. Results: A total of 86.2% of all unique alcohol advertisements contained at least one violation of IARD's Guiding Principles, with violation rates ranging from 72.7% (Mexico) to 100% (Brazil). Countries with the least restrictive marketing policies had a higher prevalence of violations in guidelines designed to protect minors. There were 2.76 in-game alcohol brand appearances and 0.83 out-of-game alcohol brand appearances per minute. Brand appearances did not differ across countries or according to a country's marketing policy restrictiveness. Conclusion: Self-regulation and statutory policies were ineffective at limiting alcohol advertising during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Tournament television broadcasts. Most advertisements contained content that violated the self-regulation codes, and there were high levels of within-broadcast brand appearances. The article can be downloaded via this link in the Wiley Online Library.
Authors: Jonathan K. Noel & Thomas F. Babor Title: Does industry self-regulation protect young people from exposure to alcohol marketing? A review of compliance and complaint studies Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13432OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Background and aims: Exposure to alcohol marketing is considered to be potentially harmful to adolescents. In addition to statutory regulation, industry self-regulation is a common way to protect adolescents from alcohol marketing exposures. This paper critically reviews research designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the alcohol industry's compliance procedures to manage complaints when alcohol marketing is considered to have violated a self-regulatory code. Methods: Peer-reviewed papers were identified through four literature search engines: PubMed, SCOPUS, PsychINFO and CINAHL. Non-peer-reviewed reports produced by public health agencies, alcohol research centers, non-governmental organizations, government research centers and national industry advertising associations were also included. Results: The search process yielded three peer-reviewed papers, seven non-peer reviewed reports published by academic institutes and non-profit organizations and 20 industry reports. The evidence indicates that the complaint process lacks standardization across countries, industry adjudicators may be trained inadequately or biased and few complaints are upheld against advertisements pre-determined to contain violations of a self-regulatory code. Conclusion: The current alcohol industry marketing complaint process used in a wide variety of countries may be ineffective at removing potentially harmful content from the market-place. The process of determining the validity of complaints employed by most industry groups appears to suffer from serious conflict of interest and procedural weaknesses that could compromise objective adjudication of even well-documented complaints. In our opinion the current system of self-regulation needs major modifications if it is to serve public health objectives, and more systematic evaluations of the complaint process are needed. The article can be downloaded via this link in the Wiley Online Library.
Authors: Jonathan K. Noel, Thomas F. Babor, Katherine Robaina Title: Industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing: a systematic review of content and exposure research Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13410OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Background and aims: With governments relying increasingly upon the alcohol industry's self-regulated marketing codes to restrict alcohol marketing activity, there is a need to summarize the findings of research relevant to alcohol marketing controls. This paper provides a systematic review of studies investigating the content of, and exposure to, alcohol marketing in relation to self-regulated guidelines. Methods: Peer-reviewed papers were identified through four literature search engines: SCOPUS, Web of Science, PubMed and PsychINFO. Non-peer-reviewed reports produced by public health agencies, alcohol research centers, non-governmental organizations and government research centers were also identified. Ninety-six publications met the inclusion criteria. Results: Of the 19 studies evaluating a specific marketing code and 25 content analysis studies reviewed, all detected content that could be considered potentially harmful to children and adolescents, including themes that appeal strongly to young men. Of the 57 studies of alcohol advertising exposure, high levels of youth exposure and high awareness of alcohol advertising were found for television, radio, print, digital and outdoor advertisements. Youth exposure to alcohol advertising has increased over time, even as greater compliance with exposure thresholds has been documented. Conclusion: Violations of the content guidelines within self-regulated alcohol marketing codes are highly prevalent in certain media. Exposure to alcohol marketing, particularly among youth, is also prevalent. Taken together, the findings suggest that the current self-regulatory systems that govern alcohol marketing practices are not meeting their intended goal of protecting vulnerable populations. The article can be downloaded via this link in the Wiley Online Library.
Authors: Jonathan Noel, Zita Lazzarini, Kate Robaina & Alan Vendrame Title: Alcohol Industry Self-Regulation: Who is it really protecting? Journal: Addiction, 2016, 10.1111/add.13433OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abstract: Self-regulation has been promoted by the alcohol industry as a sufficient means of regulating alcohol marketing activities. However, evidence suggests that the guidelines of self-regulated alcohol marketing codes are routinely violated, resulting in excessive alcohol marketing exposure to youth and the use of content that is potentially harmful to youth and other vulnerable populations. If the alcohol industry does not adhere to its own regulations, the purpose and design of these codes should be questioned. Indeed, implementation of alcohol marketing self-regulation in Brazil, the U.K., and the U.S. was likely to delay statutory regulation rather than to promote public health. Moreover, current self-regulation codes suffer from vague language that may allow the industry to circumvent the guidelines, loopholes that may obstruct the implementation of the codes, lax exposure guidelines that can allow excessive youth exposure, even if properly followed, and a standard of review that may be inappropriate for protecting vulnerable populations. Greater public health benefits may be realized if legislative restrictions were applied to alcohol marketing, and strict statutory alcohol marketing regulations have been implemented and successfully defended in the European Union, with European courts declaring that restrictions on alcohol marketing are proportional to the benefits to public health. In contrast, attempts to restrict alcohol marketing activities in the U.S. have occurred through private litigation and have been unsuccessful. Nonetheless, repeated violations of industry codes may provide legislators with sufficient justification to pass new legislation and for such legislation to withstand constitutional review in the U.S. and elsewhere. The article can be downloaded via this link in the Wiley Online Library.
girl-watching-alcohol-commercial_4 This Wednesday, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger presented the new draft proposal of the AVMSD, which was shockingly devoid of increased restrictions on alcohol advertising. The new proposal follows a 2015 public consultation in which many European health- and consumer organizations indicated they wanted the AVMSD to do a better job at protecting minors against exposure of alcohol advertising.
The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) is the only pan European media regulation, and therefore the only Europe-wide regulation of alcohol advertising. Because of its unique position, the AVMSD is a crucial European policy instrument in preventing harmful content from reaching minors. The AVMSD has two articles dedicated to alcohol advertising (article 9.1 and article 22) but these do not effectively protect minors from frequent exposure to alcohol advertising, which is often particularly attractive to minors. The draft for a revised AVMSD that is currently on the table boasts that it will better protect minors from harmful content, yet it does nothing to decrease the number of alcohol advertisements European children are exposed to on a daily basis. In fact because of a liberalization of broadcast advertising times, it is possible that minors will be exposed to an even greater number of alcohol advertisements.[1] The revised AVMSD draft proposes to increasingly rely on alcohol industry self- and co regulation. This shows how market interests are put above European public health. The commission is willingly ignoring a vast body of research which shows that alcohol industry self-regulation stands at odds with improving public health. We ask EU citizens, NGOs, national and European representatives to ask the European Commission if they are really doing enough to effectively limit the exposure of minors to alcohol advertising. This is why the signatories of this press-release have jointly launched the website change-avmsd.eu! Visit the webpage, sign the petition and help us protect minors from exposure of alcohol advertising! If you are interested in this subject, want to know more or voice your support, you are kindly invited to our seminar  “How do we protect minors from exposure of alcohol marketing?” at the European Parliament Room A1G3, Tuesday May 31st, 8:30.

[1] Especially the vulnerable group of 13-17 years of age will be watching prime-time and evening television which is expected to become more saturated with advertising, since broadcasters will no longer have an hourly maximum of 20% broadcast time they can show commercials, but now a daytime maximum of 20%.
Contact: info@change-avmsd.eu Telephone Wim van Dalen (EUCAM/STAP): +32 653 295 544The signatories of this press release are:
avmsd draft European news portal Euractiv.com last week obtained a leaked draft proposal of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), which regulates broadcast and on demand media at the European level. As hoped by many health scientists and NGOs, the proposal underscores the importance of protecting young people against harmful media content, including alcohol advertising. However, worries arise over a proposed stronger reliance on self- and co-regulation of the industry. While the leaked document has stirred media reactions especially concerning a European content tax (nonlinear media providers such as Netflix and ITunes, would be subjected to a tax, from which new European media productions would be funded); a requirement for nonlinear media services to have at least 20% of their programming to be original European content; as well as a relaxation of television advertising times; less fuss is made about what the draft proposal says about the protection of minors against advertisements for salty, fatty, sugary, and alcohol products. So, what does the draft say about alcohol?
Alcohol will be added to 9 paragraph 4: ‘Member States and the Commission shall encourage the development of self-an co-regulatory codes of conduct regarding inappropriate audiovisual communications for alcoholic beverages. Member States are encouraged to ensure that these codes are used to effectively limit the exposure of minors to audiovisual commercial communications for alcoholic beverages. These codes shall be in line with article 4.7 of this directive.
Later on in the proposal, in prefix 34 the example of a good practice is given in the form of including responsible drinking messages as per the code of conduct. This is an example, which has been criticized by scientists and NGOs, because in the hand of alcohol producers the responsible drinking message becomes part of the marketing effort (Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence). In the paragraph ‘the choice of the instrument’ the proposal describes why self- or co-regulation have been chosen. The document states that: ‘Such regimes are deemed to be broadly accepted by the main stakeholders and provide for effective enforcement.’ EUCAM would like to point out that in case of the alcohol industry and protection of public health, such schemes are actually proven not to be effective (IAS, Addiction Journal, WHO). Of further interest is that the proposed document will give member states more options to take action against violations of their media regulations from abroad targeted at their own population. For this, see prefix 19, 29 as well as article 4 and article 5 ter. While it is disappointing to learn that the proposal doesn’t go into detail on how to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising, EUCAM would like to point out that the leaked draft is likely incomplete as it does not address crucial articles on alcohol advertising from the current version of the AVMSD, namely:
* Article 9. Paragraph 1e: Member States shall ensure that audiovisual commercial communications provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction comply with the following requirements: audiovisual commercial communications for alcoholic beverages shall not be aimed specifically at minors and shall not encourage immoderate consumption of such beverages; * Article 22: Television advertising and teleshopping for alcoholic beverages shall comply with the following criteria: (a) it may not be aimed specifically at minors or, in particular, depict minors consuming these beverages; (b) it shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or to driving; (c) it shall not create the impression that the consumption of alcohol contributes towards social or sexual success; (d) it shall not claim that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or that it is a stimulant, a sedative or a means of resolving personal conflicts; (e) it shall not encourage immoderate consumption of alcohol or present abstinence or moderation in a negative light; (f) it shall not place emphasis on high alcoholic content as being a positive quality of the beverages.
Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger on Monday the 23rd of May announced on Twitter: EUCAM will give updates on further news on amending the AVMSD as it becomes available. Source: EURActiv.com 05/18/16
In a ruling that once again proves the ineffectiveness of the self-regulatory system, the Dutch Media Commissariat has said that Radio and TV spots for the alcohol free Amstel 0.0 beverage should be seen as advertising for an alcohol producer and as such should not have been allowed to be broadcast before 9PM according to the Media law of 2008.   Please take a look at the Amstel 0.0 commercial below: The complaint was filed in May 2014 by EUCAM, the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, which operates out of the Netherlands. Alcohol Commercial or Not? In our complaint to the Media Commissariat we argued that the spot which advertised the alcohol free product Amstel 0.0, was in fact also advertising the brand name ‘Amstel’ which predominantly produces alcoholic beverages. Our argumentation for this was based on the definition of advertising as described in Article 1 of the Media law as well as Article 1 of the Dutch Advertising Code. Secondly, we argued that the content of the advertisement actually refers to the alcoholic beverages of the same brand. Near the end of the commercial the voiceover says that the “natural mix of Amstel beer and lemon juice” is now also available alcohol free. We also referred to an earlier case from 2010, in which a TV spot for Bavaria 0.0% was classified as an alcohol commercial for referring too strongly to the alcoholic beverage of the same brand. The Media Commissariat in its verdict explained that the Media law prohibits alcohol advertising on TV and radio between 6AM and 9PM, in order to protect children from alcohol marketing exposure. Because of a direct reference to the alcoholic beverage of the same brand, the spot works to appeal to alcoholic beverages and should according to the verdict, not have been broadcasted during the watershed timeslot. Because of this, the Commissariat has contacted the media institutes that have wrongfully broadcasted the commercial during the daytime to discuss the compliance with the media law and explain how the commercial may have exposed children to alcohol advertising. It has also pointed out that breaches of the media law can result in penalties. The Commissariat has also updated the text about alcohol advertising in the frequently asked questions on their website to clear up any ambiguity. Failing of Self-Regulation The complaint to the Media Commissariat was filed at the same time as a complaint about the same advertisement to the Advertising Code Commission (Reclame Code Commissie), the self-regulatory body of the Dutch advertising industry. This complaint letter used largely the same arguments, but went into more details about the content of the commercial, in accordance with the more qualitative character of the Advertising Code. The Advertising Code Commission rejected the complaint on all grounds. One of the arguments in the verdict of the Advertising Code Commission was that, while the sport commentators can be heard to think that the cyclist is drinking beer, this is nonetheless no alcohol commercial, because the comedic scenario of the commercial is so unrealistic, that it would be abundantly clear to the viewers that the characters in the commercial are not actually drinking beer. Furthermore, the Commission’s verdict also states that because of the inclusion of the figure 0.0 throughout the commercial this commercial is clearly dedicated to an alcohol free product. The Commission however, overlooks what the Media Commissariat finds damning about this commercial: The clear and direct reference in the voiceover to the alcoholic beverage Amstel beer. This once again shows the need for independent institutions to manage legally mandatory alcohol marketing regulations, instead of relying on self-regulation which is more concerned with their own vested interests then consumer protection. It also shows the problems of content restrictions in that the question of whether or not this commercial should be classified as an alcohol commercial leads to a considerable and unsatisfying discussion.