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.13432
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.