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Let's keep the alcohol industry honest

Thursday 18 October, 2012 by Bek

Join us in highlighting sneaky advertising to kids #alcoholfreekids

Guy and girl in alcohol adCan alcohol help you to fulfil your dreams?

This tequila ad seems to suggest it. Certainly the idea of hanging out at the beach with your lover when you should be at work or school is enormously appealing (especially if you get to look like that in a bikini), but I can look at this ad as an adult with a cynical eye. I know that the only dreams tequila will give me are nightmares of dehydration and embarrassing scenarios where I lose my shoes.

Children don't have the same ability to critically assess alcohol ads, which is why we have advertising codes that should protect them from being exposed to alcohol advertising.

What can it hurt though? I hear you ask. And why does Cancer Council care?

Firstly, evidence shows that alcohol advertising works, not surprising really. Studies have shown a strong association between exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines, TV, in-store displays and sports venues and that it means young people start drinking at a younger age and/or drink more heavily. Research has also shown that advertising shapes young people's beliefs, attitudes about alcohol and impacts on their drinking behaviour.

Here's why we care – early and frequent drinking approximately doubles the risk of alcohol-related problems later in life including increasing the risk of some cancers. 

So we're committed to campaigning for children to be protected from exposure to alcohol advertising as much as possible, including adolescents. Unfortunately at the moment this isn't happening.

You may be surprised to read that the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code requires advertisements to present "a mature, balanced and responsible approach to drinking. Specifically alcohol advertisements are not to have a strong or evident appeal to children or adolescents, depict the consumption or presence of alcohol as contributing to personal, business, social, sporting, sexual or other success or suggest alcohol contributed to a change in mood or environment."  

But hang on, you say. I'm sure I've seen plenty of ads that breach this code. Take the Bundaberg ad where the bar filled with bored, desperate blokes turns into a glamour-like heaven thanks to the beer company. Or how about the current offerings from Jim Beam which include a competition to win an electric skateborard, or an opportunity to invite the 'Jim Beam on Campus' party crew to help 'help' students host alcohol-fuelled parties at Uni and then post the photos on Facebook to win prizes. Talk about appealing to young people!

Yes, as you may have guessed, the codes are fairly ineffective for a number of reasons:

a) They're voluntary, this means they are created and run by the alcohol companies themselves, and include no punishments for those who contravene them.

b) They only cover the content of ads and not the placement of them. For example, alcopops can be advertised before a ‘One Direction' YouTube clip.

c) There are more holes than netting. For example, the Commercial Television code stipulates that alcohol cannot be advertised until after 8:30pm (which, as we all know, is the universal time for children and teens to go to bed!) except during live sporting events such as the AFL grand final when large numbers of children are watching.

The marketing and promotion of alcohol is an international industry dominated by global companies with immense resources and budgets – advertising is crucial for these companies to gain the greatest possible marketshare and maximise consumption. Recruiting new consumers is vital, which is why they target young audiences.  

We want to hold the alcohol industry to account and build momentum for change. Join us in tweeting any examples you find of sneaky advertising tactics designed to attract children. #alcoholfreekids 

What can you do if you're concerned about the impact of an alcohol advertisement on young people?

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