New Zealand, 1 Aug, 2018

Researchers say alcohol brands should be banned from sponsoring sports due to the damaging impacts it has on children.

Their calls come after a study showed New Zealand children were exposed to alcohol marketing roughly five times a day.For Māori and Pacific children, it was up to five times that amount. And a large chunk of that exposure occurred through sports sponsorship.

Lead researcher Tim Chambers, from the University of Otago, Wellington, said the findings were a real concern given the evidence that showed exposure to alcohol marketing was associated with increased childhood alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm.

“Research has shown exposure to alcohol marketing via sports sponsorship and at alcohol outlets is associated with children’s alcohol consumption, including starting to drink at earlier ages,” Chambers said.

But the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council has rejected those claims.

“All the data tells us that young people’s consumption of alcohol has dropped significantly over the last 15 years. Young people should be congratulated for that,” executive director Nick Leggett said.

Leggett said he didn’t see a need for any new restrictions when there was improvement.

“There are more licences and advertising than there were 40 years ago however, per capita consumption of alcohol has reduced by over 20 per cent in New Zealand in that time and continues to decline.

“Legitimate advertising of brands by companies is about increasing their share of a market who already enjoy a drink, it’s not about luring non drinkers to purchase,” Leggett said.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Dr Nicki Jackson disagreed, saying the link between alcohol and sport in New Zealand was insidious.

“It’s part of our drinking culture and it’s time we break that link.”

Jackson said advertising alcohol everywhere normalises it among young people and we don’t want that.

“Our guidelines are that young people delay consumption for as long as possible.”

Jackson said more sponsorship of alcohol through elite sporting teams which were “heroes of the young” was been seen.

“When young people are seeing their favourite players wearing branded T-shirts then they want to be like them and wear alcohol products.”

The collaborative study, conducted by the universities of Otago and Auckland, involved 168 children wearing cameras for four days.

Photos were taken every seven seconds and the location was recorded every five seconds.

Chambers said alcohol companies’ sponsorship of sport led to exposure of children to alcohol marketing in their homes, on their clothing and in traditional health promoting environments such as sports venues.

“There’s a need for legislative restrictions on alcohol marketing, ending industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing, banning alcohol sponsorship of sport, and increasing restrictions on alcohol outlet shop fronts,” he said.

Cultural disparities were mainly attributed to higher rates of exposure via off-licence outlets and sports sponsorship for Māori children.

In New Zealand, alcohol contributed to 800 deaths and cost the country over $5 billion a year.

The experiment took place over June and July in 2015 and ran throughout the Wellington region.

“Our research provides further evidence that industry self-regulation does not work. It is time for Government to implement restrictions on alcohol marketing,” Chambers said.

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