Conclusion new research: Introduction of a legal ban on alcohol advertising is the only real solution.


Young people in Europe are regularly confronted with alcohol advertising on television. New European research shows that the functioning of the so called self-regulation of alcohol marketing does not protect young people against the exposure of alcohol commercials.

This conclusion is in conflict with recent statements of the alcohol industry. This industry claims that self-regulation is functioning perfect and has to be expanded. The AMMIE researchers conclude that only a total ban on alcohol advertising can prevent the harmful impact of alcohol advertising on the drinking levels of young people.

The new research is a part of the AMMIE project (Alcohol Monitoring Marketing in Europe); the project is co-financed by the European Commission and coordinated by the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP). The research has been implemented in Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands in cooperation with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health in the US.

The summary report of the AMMIE project ‘Commercial promotion of drinking in Europe’ will be presented Thursday the 26th of April at the European Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission.

Unique shocking data about the exposure of alcohol commercials to young people
The AMMIE project shows that a minor in the five participating countries was exposed 970 times to an alcohol commercial during the months May and October 2010 via three popular TV channels. In Bulgaria, a minor was exposed 36 million times, in Denmark 10 million times, in Germany 610 million times, in Italy 54 million times and in the Netherlands 54 million times. Given the 22 million minors living in these five countries the conclusion is that on average one minor was exposed to a total of 44 alcohol commercials on the three TV channels during the two months.

Alternative forms of daily exposure of alcohol marketing by other TV-channels, radio, bill-boards, social media, TV via internet and price-marketing in shops are not included in these data.

Thanks to the financial support of the European Commission the researchers of AMMIE were able to buy these exposure data from marketing companies.

[b]Vulnerable young people are often more intensively confronted with alcohol marketing via TV than adults[/b]
During the two months of the study a total number of 11.122 alcohol commercials were broadcasted in the five participating countries. Analysis of the AMMIE project data showed that often relatively more young people were exposed to alcohol marketing than adults. As an example: in the Netherlands 27% of all the commercials were relatively seen by more young people of 12-17 years of age (compared to the total number of young people of this age group) than by adults. The conclusion is that young people of 12-17 years of age are often exposed to huge numbers of alcohol ads.

Especially the age group of 12-17 is very sensitive for the impact of alcohol marketing. Many of these young people start to experiment with alcohol use.

These exposure data are in sharp conflict with the goal of the European alcohol strategy. This strategy aims at reducing alcohol use by young people.

Volume restrictions in self-regulation codes of the alcohol industry fails
Part of the self-regulation of alcohol advertising is the principle that alcohol advertising is not allowed if the target group exists of more than 30% minors (in the Netherlands 25%). The AMMIE project evaluated this proportional standard. The conclusion is that only in the months May and October 2010 this rule already has been violated 510 times. The highest number of violations was found in Denmark (427 times). The analysis also showed that even in situations where the 30% rule was not violated a large number of children and adolescents were exposed to alcohol ads.

For example: a commercial of Heineken was seen in the research period by 362.244 children (6-17 years of age). However this huge number of young people represented only 15.4% of the total group of TV viewers. The population of not one European country consists of more than 30% minors. This simple fact allows the alcohol industry to broadcast alcohol commercials to almost any public target group.

Legal time ban for alcohol advertising on TV can have adverse effects
In 21 of the 27 member states there are different legal restrictions for alcohol advertising on TV. The goal of these restrictions is to reduce exposure of alcohol marketing towards young people.

The AMMIE research showed that also time bans can have an unexpected negative effect. In the Netherlands, an alcohol advertising time ban has been introduced in 2010. Alcohol advertising on radio and TV was from that time forbidden from 6.00 a.m. until 21.00 p.m. However, after the introduction of this time ban the alcohol industry three-folded the number of alcohol advertisements on TV between 21.00 and 22.00 p.m. Given the fact that after 21.00 p.m. many minors are still watching TV the results of this intensification of the number of alcohol ads resulted in an adverse effect: after the introduction of the time ban even more minors were confronted with alcohol advertising than before.

The conclusion of the AMMIE researchers is that a total alcohol marketing ban is the only safe way to protect young people against the harmful effects of televised alcohol marketing.

More information:
The AMMIE reports can be found on . There are two European reports. All the participating countries issued four national reports. These studies report about the exposure of alcohol marketing towards young people, the results of filing 199 complaints towards the national alcohol advertising committees, sport sponsoring of the alcohol industry and alcohol marketing trends.

The AMMIE project is co-funded by the European Commission and coordinated by the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP).

Partners of STAP in the AMMIE project are:

-Alcohol & Society Denmark
-German Centre for Addiction Issues (DHS), Germany
-Foundation ‘Horizonti 21’, Bulgaria
-Eurocare Italia, Italy
-EUROCARE, Belgium

This project is supported by EUCAM, the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing.

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