The final conference of the AMPHORA research project was held with the Swedish Medical Society in Stockholm, on 17th-19th October. Among other things, the conference resulted in the publication of the AMPHORA Manifesto on Alcohol Policy, in which 71 scientists from 33 organizations from 14 European countries provide a base of understanding of alcohol policy and what it entails, encourage rethinking the dynamics of policymaking and the necessary actions across different levels and sectors of society.
Among the main points of the manifesto is the following paragraph on alcohol marketing:
We regard the evidence as compelling that all forms of commercial communications on alcohol should be banned.
This was the third of the three ‘best buys’ put forward by the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organization. When it is studied, the greater the exposure, the greater non-drinkers are likely to start to drink, and the greater the consumption of existing drinkers. Even simply watching a one hour movie with a greater number of drinking scenes, or viewing simple advertisements can double the amount drunk over the hour’s viewing period. Most commercial communications are now done through social media outlets, and, so, bans need to apply to them. Self-regulatory codes do not work. Even if an advertisement is pulled after airing, it is too late and the advertisement often lives on, copied in social media.
Furthermore the document describes the AMPHORA scientist’s concern over the current state of alcohol policy:
We are concerned that our governments are not doing enough to reduce the harm done by alcohol.
By their own admission, many countries themselves say that they have been doing the wrong things. Over the five years 2006-2010, according to a 2012 World Health Organization report, areas of policy that got stronger in European Union countries included more education and public campaigns, and areas that did not get stronger or got weaker included pricing and advertising. This is the wrong way round to what might have made a difference.
“Of course, there is no way that we could expect European citizens to adjust their drinking habits to respect the European Food Safety Authority limits on toxic thresholds for cancer (one drink a year)”, noted Peter Anderson, Professor of Substance Use, Policy and Practice at Newcastle University, England, and co-lead of the AMPHORA project, “but there are urgent things that governments need to do, like making information and health warning labels mandatory on all alcohol beverage containers, in the same way that cigarette packets carry labels saying that cigarettes cause cancer; and, like banning all forms of commercial communications on alcohol, as has been done for tobacco.”