1st December, 2017 by Lauren Eads
The Australian alcohol and sporting industry has rounded on proposals to ban alcohol adverts in New South Wales (NSW) claiming that it will harm the industry and, despite claims to the contrary, will not do anything to discourage drinking among young people.
In September the NSW parliament announced it was considering whether to implement tough restrictions on alcohol advertising, which could extend to Sydney and the capital of Australia, Canberra.
The proposals, contained within the 2015 Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill, call for the complete ban of any alcohol advert that can be seen or heard from a public place with the aim of discouraging alcohol consumption, limiting exposure of young people and children to persuasion to drink alcoholic beverages and reducing alcohol-related crime, road accidents and prevent alcohol-related illness (such as cirrhosis of the liver).
The bill also provides an option for local regions to decide if the purchase of alcohol or consumption in a public place should be an offence.
This week an inquiry into the bill, which was introduced by the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, Reverend the Hon Fred Nile MLC, began at the NSW Parliament.
Nile claims the ban would encourage a healthier lifestyle by “prohibiting advertising and other promotional activities aimed at assisting the sale of alcoholic beverages, and consequently reducing the incentive for people to consume alcohol”.
“Alcohol is Australia’s number one social problem,” said Reverend Nile, who is also the Chairman of the committee conducting the inquiry. “This is a very important issue and I’m pleased that the Legislative Council has referred the Bill to this committee for inquiry and examination.”
The tough proposals have already provoked opposition not only from the drinks industry, but a number of sporting bodies, including Netball Australia, Cricket Australia and Tennis Australia.
Opening the inquiry today, the executive director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, Fergus Taylor, told members that while there is an “association” between drinking and advertising but it isn’t causal, and that there is no evidence to suggest that alcohol advertising causes young Australians to drink more.
“The point that I make is that these relationships, and links, and associations that you will hear about do not represent a causal relationship,” Taylor told the inquiry, as reported by The Guardian. “Once you appreciate that the advertising that you are seeking to ban is not causing the problem that you are trying to solve, it becomes a moot point.”
Sporting associations have also opposed the plans, claiming that a ban on advertising would undermine the economics of professional sport in Australia, as reported by ABC.
“The proposed amendments mean that a significant amount of advertising revenue would be denied to broadcasters,” the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) said its submission to the inquiry. “This will have a corresponding negative impact on sports’ rights fees.”
Brown Forman Australia, whose brands include Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve and Finlandia, said it strongly supports an “evidence-based approach to policymaking”, but that it sees “no evidence to support a change in approach to alcohol advertising and marketing in New South Wales”, in its submission to the inquiry.
“Our view is that Australia is well-served by its current regulatory framework for alcohol marketing and advertising, which balances well the interests of business, tourism, consumers, public health and the protection of youth,” it said in a statement.
“We consider that the best forward approach to reduce the harmful use of alcohol is to continue to explore and utilize partnerships among all stakeholders to make targeted interventions towards defined groups of risky consumers, and not to pursue population-level, disproportionate and blanket restrictions, which may bring with them unintended or needless consequences.”
On the other side of the fence, health groups, including the College for Emergency Medicine and the NSW/ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance – a coalition of 48 organisations working to reduce alcohol-related harm – are in full support of the proposals.
In its submission, the College stated: “Alcohol advertising contributes to the normalisation of alcohol use and reinforces the harmful drinking culture that currently exists in Australia”.
Earlier this year the drinks trade hit back at calls for a widespread ban on alcohol advertising following the publication of a global collective of research papers in the US-based Addiction Journal, funded by Alcohol Research UK and the Institute of Alcohol Studies.
It claims that the wine and spirits industry’s marketing practices encourage young people to drink, and that greater controls on advertising are required, going so far as to suggest a “comprehensive ban” on alcohol advertising worldwide.
Meanwhile, plans to ban beer, wines and spirits adverts on the New York subway are already underway by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The new law will come into place next year and will forbid all alcoholic drinks advertising on subways in the Big Apple.
The inquiry into a further ban on alcohol advertising in NSW will continue this week, with a decision on the introduction of the 2015 Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill not expected until the new year.
“The committee will look at the impact of advertising and promotion of alcohol across a range of platforms such as sports sponsorships, social media, public transport, product placement, online gaming and cinema advertising,” the legislative council for NSW Parliament has said.
“We will consider the effectiveness of the prohibition proposed through this bill on protecting health and saving lives.”