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According to the most recent National Drug Strategy Household Survey, there is strong public support for controls on alcohol advertising. Compared to the previous report, there was increased support for preventing TV advertising until 9.30 pm (71% to 73%) and for banning alcohol sponsorship of sporting events (from 48% to 54%).
Alcohol advertising itself is restricted on TV during children’s viewing hours as young eyeballs are unable to tell the difference between advertising and other programs. The Australian Communications and Media Authority reported in 2007 that two to six year olds cannot distinguish between advertising and information. What’s interesting is that around 50% of children aged between four and five and a half can recognise alcoholic products.¹
While there are controls on TV advertising, there are no controls anywhere else. Outdoor advertising is displayed at highways, roadways, bus stations, train stations – any type of public transport stop. It’s in our magazines, newspapers and online. So why do these other forms have little to no regulation?
Alcohol companies in Australia spend an estimated $125 million a year on alcohol advertising in newspapers, magazines, outdoor and TV. The Outdoor Media Association (OMA) has introduced a policy that requires all their members to limit the advertising of ‘alcohol products’ on fixed signs that are located within a 150 metre sight line of a primary or secondary school. This generally relates to any access gates to the school. But what defines a fixed sign? Is a rolling ad at a bus stop a fixed sign? In addition if you are not a member then of course this self-regulation does not apply.
Granted, TV is all pervasive, but as our children go about their daily routines, travel to school, play sport, and so on, there are constant reminders that alcohol is attractive. There is evidence informing us that exposure to alcohol advertising and young people’s initiation to alcohol are linked. The continued advertising of alcohol both normalises the use of alcohol and reinforces Australia’s drinking culture.
Given the harms, we should put a stop to all alcohol advertising. In the meantime, we should at least have legislation to enforce better regulation. To support our case, if you see any adverts for alcohol please take a photo and send your complaint to the Alcohol Advertising Review Board.