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August 2, 2017

Take action on alcohol advertising in your community

Do you sometimes feel like everywhere you turn, you see an alcohol ad? Alcohol is one of the most heavily promoted products in the world, and children and adolescents are exposed to unacceptably high levels of alcohol advertising in many different forms.

Expert health groups have recommended restricting alcohol advertising during times and in places which have high exposure to children and young people as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing alcohol related harms. There is now strong and compelling evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising impacts on the drinking behaviours and attitudes of young people.

In response to the concerns about the effectiveness of alcohol advertising regulation under the voluntary self-regulatory alcohol advertising scheme in Australia, the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council WA established the Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB).

The AARB accepts and reviews complaints about concerning alcohol advertising from the Australian community, free of industry influence.

If a complaint is upheld by the AARB Panel, the advertiser is requested to modify or remove the offending advertisement. The AARB does not have legal power to enforce its decisions. Instead, the AARB gets its power from communicating decisions to the media and the public, and naming and shaming companies that advertise irresponsibly.

Despite advertisers not being obliged to act on AARB determinations, the AARB has had success in getting some offending ads removed or modified. Examples include:

  • An ad for Smirnoff Vodka on a phone box outside a distance education school in Perth, WA was removed by the advertiser on receipt of the complaint.
  • A beer ad was played before an 11am screening of the children’s film Secret Life of Pets, rated G, in Melbourne. The cinema advertising company took full responsibility for the placement of the ad and introduced new procedures to ensure a similar incident didn’t occur again.
  • A concerned parent from Albany, WA saw a brewery ad below an ad for Nickelodeon cartoons and a promotional video they believed was inappropriate on a local radio station website. The advertiser requested that changes be made to the timing, wording and website placements by the radio station, and the video was removed.

These successes are important, but making complaints to the AARB is also part of broader action on alcohol advertising. The AARB raises awareness of the weaknesses of self-regulation of alcohol advertising and the need for stronger regulation in Australia. Every complaint we receive from the community about concerning alcohol ads provides further support for the need for strong, independent controls to ensure alcohol advertising is socially responsible and exposure to children and young people is minimised.

Community Drug Action Teams are in the perfect position to take action on alcohol advertising.

As passionate and dedicated volunteers working in the community, you can monitor alcohol advertising in your local area. If you see any alcohol ad or promotion that concerns you, snap a pic and submit a complaint. The AARB accepts complaints via an online form at www.alcoholadreview.com.au, email, phone or post. It’s very easy to voice your concerns and take action on alcohol advertising!

To find out more about the Alcohol Advertising Review Board, or to make a complaint, visit www.alcoholadreview.com.au, follow @AlcoholAdReview on Twitter or contact complaints@alcoholadreview.com.au.