The Republic of Ireland is introducing new controls on alcohol marketing, starting in November 2019 with restrictions on some outdoor and cinema advertising, and a ban on public transport advertising. We examined changes in marketing awareness one year after initial implementation and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Repeat online cross-sectional surveys with adults in Ireland conducted October 2019 (n = 1,007) and October 2020 (n = 1,020). Participants self-reported past-month awareness of alcohol marketing and completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Concise (AUDIT-C). Current drinkers were categorised as those reporting heavy episodic drinking at least monthly and higher-risk drinkers (≥5 AUDIT-C).
In both waves, most participants recalled some marketing awareness (94.1% vs. 93.8%). For 9/13 activities measured in both waves, there were decreases in the proportion reporting any awareness and frequency of awareness, including for the newly restricted activities. For example, any awareness of public transport advertising decreased between waves (ORAdj = 0.66, 95%CI: 0.53–0.81). In both waves, higher past-month awareness was associated with at least monthly heavy episodic drinking and higher-risk consumption.
We recommend a precautionary interpretation. It is plausible that both Ireland’s initial controls and COVID-19 restrictions contributed to decreases in awareness, but longer-term evaluation is required to determine relative contribution.