Based on the findings of research featured in a special issue of the respected journal Addiction released January 10, 2017, experts in public health research, policy, and community mobilization are calling for greater restrictions on youth exposure to alcohol marketing similar to the “legally binding global health treaties and non-binding codes [that] have been developed to restrict the marketing of tobacco, breast milk substitutes and unhealthy foods, based on evidence of a public health crisis.”
The issue features an analysis and first-ever review of a dozen research papers by an impressive roster of global public health experts.
The key findings in the research and review include:
- There’s strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads to early drinking by youth. The more alcohol marketing messages that young people see – including those in social media - the more likely that they will begin drinking and will drink hazardously through binge drinking.
- The alcohol industry’s voluntary, self-regulatory system is broken. Alcohol marketing associated with the 2014 FIFA World Cup was a particularly relevant example of how weak, self-regulatory measures can’t do the job of protecting young people. In the U.S., the alcohol industry is responsible for setting its own advertising and marketing standards in order to limit youth exposure.
- There are better, more effective ways to reduce youth exposure to alcohol marketing. Laws and regulations limiting alcohol marketing - based in public health research and independent of commercial interests that profit from the problem – are the best bet in protecting youth and other vulnerable populations from harmful marketing.
- A global agreement to limit marketing of alcoholic beverages along the lines of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) could be instrumental in protecting young people.
Interventions that reduce underage drinking are especially relevant, given the growing body of epidemiological studies showing that underage drinking can lead not only to immediate harms (like alcohol poisoning and car crashes) but to long-term, expensive-to-treat medical conditions, including several types of cancer.
“We are mortgaging our future by overexposing our young people to alcohol marketing,” said Diane Riibe, Chair of the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance. “It’s time to truly protect our kids, and evidence-based limitations on alcohol marketing can do just that. This is timely and critical research, and we look forward to advocating for its recommendations.”
In virtually every part of the world, alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for males ages 15 to 24, while excessive alcohol use is responsible for approximately 4,350 deaths in the United States every year among young people 21 and younger.
Source: The U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance which works to translate alcohol policy research into public health practice to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm.