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.13433
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.