A new special issue of the journal Addiction examines the state of knowledge on regulating alcohol marketing. In an overview, Maristela Monteiro, Thomas Babor, David Jernigan and Chris Brookes summarize three key themes in these papers: alcohol marketing causes harm to vulnerable populations; industry self-regulation is ineffective in protecting vulnerable populations; and alternatives are available to address the problem. They conclude that renewed action by governments to control alcohol marketing is needed.
A recent study used advertising industry standard sources to evaluate youth exposure to alcohol advertising, and relative advertising exposure of youths versus adults, in 168 national magazines published in the United States . The study found that from 2001 to 2011, magazine alcohol advertising seen by youths declined by 62.9%, from 5.4 billion impressions (single person seeing a single advertisement) to 2.0 billion impressions. Most alcohol advertising (65.1% of ads) was for spirits (e.g., vodka, whiskey). Since 2008, alcohol companies achieved 100% compliance with their limited guidelines. However, youths were overexposed to magazine advertising relative to adults on average 73% of the time. The authors concluded that despite improving compliance with placement guidelines in these magazines, most youth exposure to magazine alcohol advertising exceeded adult exposure, per capita. If alcohol companies adopted stricter guidelines based on public health risk assessments, youths would not be overexposed to alcohol advertising in magazines.
Full citation: Ross CS, Henehan ER, Jernigan DH. Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in National Magazines in the United States, 2001-2011. Am J Public Health. 2017;107(1):136-142.
Another recent review article summarized the literature on the use of digital media to market alcohol.
Full citation: 1: Lobstein T, Landon J, Thornton N, Jernigan D. The commercial use of digital media to market alcohol products: a narrative review. Addiction. 2016. doi:10.1111/add.13493
The distribution of drinkers in England. Credit
This review was commissioned by the Department of Health of England, which asked Public Health England (PHE) to provide an overview of alcohol-related harm in England and possible policy solutions. The report offers a broad and rigorous summary of the types and prevalence of alcohol-related harm, and evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of alcohol control policies. Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which an intervention reduces the public health burden (health, social, and economic) of alcohol. The findings are interpreted within the English context and will be relevant to academics and researchers, public health professionals and policymakers in the health and non-health sectors. The review provides national and local policy makers with the latest evidence to identify those policies which will best prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm. It covers the following areas: taxation and price regulation, regulating marketing, regulating availability, providing information and education, managing the drinking environment, reducing drink-driving, and brief interventions and treatment.
The alcohol industry have attempted to position themselves as collaborators in alcohol policy making as a way of influencing policies away from a focus on the drivers of the harmful use of alcohol (marketing, over availability and affordability). Their framings of alcohol consumption and harms allow them to argue for ineffective measures, largely targeting heavier consumers, and against population wide measures as the latter will affect moderate drinkers. The goal of their public relations organizations is to ‘promote responsible drinking’. However, analysis of data collected in the International Alcohol Control study and used to estimate how much heavier drinking occasions contribute to the alcohol market in five different countries shows the alcohol industry’s reliance on the harmful use of alcohol. In higher income countries heavier drinking occasions make up approximately 50% of sales and in middle income countries it is closer to two-thirds. It is this reliance on the harmful use of alcohol which underpins the conflicting interests between the transnational alcohol corporations and public health and which militates against their involvement in the alcohol policy arena. Full
Citation: Caswell S, Callinan S, Chaiyasong S, Cuong PV, Kazantseva E, Bayandorj T, Huckle T, Parker K, Railton R, Wall M. How the alcohol industry relies on harmful use of alcohol and works to protect its profits. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016; 00:000–000
It has been argued that the alcohol industry uses corporate social responsibility activities to influence policy and undermine public health, and that every opportunity should be taken to scrutinise such activities. This study analyses a ‘responsible drinking’ campaign (“Stop out of Control Drinking”, or SOOCD) sponsored in Ireland by Diageo, one of the world’s largest alcohol companies. The study aims to identify how the campaign and its advisory board members frame and define (i) alcohol-related harms, and their causes, and (ii) possible solutions. The authors conclude that The ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ campaign frames alcohol problems and solutions in ways unfavourable to public health, and closely reflects other Diageo Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity, as well as alcohol and tobacco industry strategies more generally. This framing, and in particular the framing of alcohol harms as a behavioural issue, with the implication that consumption should be guided only by self-defined limits, may not have been recognised by all board members. It suggests a need for awareness-raising efforts among the public, third sector and policymakers about alcohol industry strategies.
Citation: Petticrew M, Fitzgerald N, Durand MA, Knai C, Davoren M, Perry I (2016) Diageo’s ‘Stop Out of Control Drinking’ Campaign in Ireland: An Analysis. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0160379. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160379
Campaign US, a publication of the advertising agencies, reports that the drinks industry in the United Kingdom has launched a new lobbying body in a bid to re-balance the public conversation around alcohol consumption away from binge drinking myths and health scare stories. The Alcohol Information Partnership describes its mission as “ensuring that the debate in UK society around alcohol and alcohol misuse remains balanced”. This involves raising awareness of information that is arguably not reflected by the media coverage and popular understanding of alcohol. The campaign is funded by eight major companies that predominantly make spirits: Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Campari, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Remy-Cointreau, Moet Hennessy and Beam Suntory.
At a brewers’ conference this spring, an alcohol lobbyist fired a warning shot in what has become a multimillion-dollar global battle, reports The Wall Street Journal. Public-health officials “want to tell you that alcohol causes cancer,” Sarah Longwell, managing director of the American Beverage Institute, told the crowd. The industry, she said, was in danger of losing its “health halo.” Continue reading With Moderate Drinking Under Fire, Alcohol Companies Go on Offensive