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Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884.

Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for young males aged 15-24 in nearly every region of the world.

Current controls on alcohol marketing are not protecting youth, warn public health experts

Leading public health experts warn that youth around the world are exposed to extensive alcohol marketing. Current controls on that marketing appear ineffective in blocking the association between youth exposure and subsequent drinking. This is documented in a Supplement of the prestigious scientific journal Addiction.

Thomas Babor web.jpgThe Addiction supplement comprises 14 papers, with research presented from around the world. Lead editor Professor Thomas Babor (picture right), of the University of Connecticut, says: “Governments are responsible for the health of their citizens.  No other legal product with such potential for harm is as widely promoted and advertised in the world as alcohol. These papers provide a wealth of information to support governments in their efforts to protect children and other vulnerable populations from exposure to alcohol marketing.” 

The Addiction supplement, Alcohol marketing regulation: From research to public policy, is free to download from the Wiley Online Library, click here. 

The experts call for governments around the world to renew their efforts to address the problem. They recommend strengthening the rules governing alcohol marketing with more effective independent statutory regulations, as self-regulation systems have repeatedly been proven not to work.

FIFA-bilde med Budweiser-reklame.jpgKey findings from the collection of peer-reviewed manuscripts in Addiction include:

  • Exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with youth alcohol consumption;
  • Analysis of alcohol promotion during the 2014 FIFA World Cup indicates alcohol marketing practices frequently appeared to breach industry voluntary codes of practice’;
  • Alcohol industry self-regulatory codes do not sufficiently protect children and adolescents from exposure to alcohol promotions, especially through social media.

Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for young males aged 15-24 in nearly every region of the world, and young females of the same age in the wealthy countries and the Americas.

"This is by far the most comprehensive documentation on the need for restrictions on alcohol marketing. As such it underscores the importance of the new alcohol policy documents that are now under preparation in the global South, among others in several of FORUT's partner countries", comments FORUT's Secretary General Morten Lønstad. "A key element in all these documents is regulation of alcohol marketing".

Chris Brookes of the UK Health Forum noted that “Governments have previously approved self-regulatory measures on alcohol advertising; however, we can no longer say that they might work to protect our young people – they don’t. In a literature review of more than 100 studies, none was identified that supported the effectiveness of industry self-regulation programmes.”

The papers offer guidelines to developing more effective alcohol marketing regulations:

  • The most effective response to alcohol marketing is likely to be a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship, in accordance with each country’s constitution or constitutional principles. 
  • Regulations should be statutory, and enforced by an appropriate public health agency of the local or national government, not by the alcohol industry. 
  • Regulations should be independent of the alcohol industry, whose primary interest lies in growing its markets and maximizing profits. 
  • A global agreement on the marketing of alcoholic beverages would support country efforts to move towards a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship. 
  • Collaboration with other population-level efforts to restrict marketing of potentially harmful products, such as ultra-processed food, sugary beverages, tobacco, and breast-milk substitutes, should be encouraged and supported. 

A new and third report from the MAMPA project documents how the alcohol industry in Africa is violating their own marketing codes.

The Addiction supplement is funded by Alcohol Research UK and the Institute of Alcohol Studies, with the authors and editors of the supplement giving their time to produce these papers pro bono.

The papers originated in work undertaken by the UK Health Forum to bring EU and US alcohol policy leads together, with funding from the EU. The specific papers were developed for a meeting on alcohol marketing convened by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  This collection of papers represents the highest level of scholarly attention devoted to this issue that has been brought together in the pages of one scientific journal. 

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