The Australian Medical Association conducted a National Summit on Alcohol Marketing to Young People at Parliament House in Canberra today, in association with the 70-member National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA).
Leading public health and non-government organisations, law enforcement bodies, youth associations, and experts in alcohol met to discuss the ubiquitous problem of young people and children being exposed to alcohol marketing (including in social media), and the policy and legislative reforms needed to curtail this. The Summit heard from a number of leading researchers and academics in the field, and also heard views from a panel of prominent Federal Parliamentarians with portfolio interests in the area. The AMA also released a major report – Alcohol Marketing and Young People: Time for a new policy agenda.
From the deliberations and points of view expressed at the Summit, there was a broad consensus about the following key findings:
- Young people in Australia are regularly exposed to alcohol marketing in the traditional contexts of television, radio, print and billboard media, and also increasingly in new platforms for marketing and promotion through digital technologies and new social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Young people routinely encounter alcohol promotion and sponsorship as a feature of music and sporting events where it is presented as a normalised part of being healthy and having fun.
- Alcohol promotion affects young people’s attitudes to alcohol and their consumption behaviour, leading them to take up drinking and to drink more when they do.
- Young people are at particular risk of harm from alcohol use. If left unaddressed, continued irresponsible alcohol marketing to young people will serve to escalate those risks and harms.
Today’s media environment is radically different to when the current policy responses in Australia regarding alcohol advertising were put in place, with increasing take up of Pay TV, more free to air channels, the explosion of social media and the shift to online content.
The current policy regime is totally inadequate in protecting young people from continued exposure to alcohol marketing. Industry self-regulation is deeply ineffective and has failed. It is time for a robust regulatory response that is independently and impartially applied, and which carries the force of meaningful sanctions.
The AMA and the NAAA believe that the exposure of children, teenagers and young people to alcohol advertising and promotion should be curtailed by government regulation, which is independent of the alcohol and advertising industries.
As a crucial first step in establishing this regulation, the AMA and NAAA call on the Australian Government to establish a major Parliamentary Inquiry, which includes the following within its Terms of Reference:
- A comprehensive analysis of the extent to which children, teenagers and young Australians are exposed to alcohol advertising and promotion, and the modes and contexts in which it occurs. As part of this, the Inquiry should:
- include a substantial focus on marketing techniques in digital platforms and in new and emerging social media, and the extent to which these platforms and media are targeted;
- include a focus on alcohol industry sponsorship of sporting and youth cultural and music events and alcohol promotion targeting tertiary education students, and
- use its powers to require leading alcohol companies and their communications agencies to table their annual expenditure, and to provide research and planning documents on alcohol promotion and marketing.
- A comprehensive independent review and analysis of research on the impacts of alcohol advertising and promotion on the attitudes and behaviours of young Australians regarding alcohol consumption.
- A ‘failure-analysis’ of the voluntary, industry-administered, code of alcohol advertising practice that currently operates in Australia.
- Recommended best practice approaches to government regulatory schemes for alcohol marketing.