'Regulations on alcohol advertising need to tackle content of ads themselves'

'Regulations on alcohol advertising need to tackle content of ads themselves'

Regulations on alcohol advertising need to go beyond where they are displayed, and tackle the content of the ads themselves, according to an advocacy group.

Alcohol Action Ireland’s call for tighter controls on the content of alcohol ads comes on the day new rules were introduced banning alcohol ads near schools, playgrounds or on public transport, and in cinemas before films other than those classified as 18s or older.

The ban also extends to any slogans or imagery promoting alcohol on children’s clothing. The charity held an event in the Mansion House yesterday in which speakers addressed the issue of lobbying of policy-makers by vested interests.

Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy, Alcohol Action Ireland, said the new rules follow “10 long years of conflict with the alcohol industry over the need to curb the marketing and promotion of alcohol in Ireland”.

“This battle continues as the major measures with the Act have yet to be commenced and face the constant pressure from industry to government to postpone or delay their implementation,” he said.

“While measures to restrict the placement of alcohol adverts will be beneficial and protect our children from excessive exposure to alcohol advertising, the commencement of controls on the content of alcohol advertising is crucial.

“Were it operational, it would further deprive alcohol brands of the fertile ground of storytelling and place the control of content in a statutory code, ridding the marketplace of impotent voluntary advertising codes,” Mr McKinney said.

Fiona Godfrey, Secretary-General of the European Public Health Alliance, delivered the keynote address at the Alcohol Action Ireland event, and spoke of her hopes for the new European Commission.

“Frans Timmermans, the EU Commission Vice President, has announced that it can no longer be 'business as usual' in Brussels over the next five years," she said.

That’s good news because EU politics and policies have to change. After almost two decades of lost good health because of big industry influence in Brussels EU citizens are demanding that the Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States up their game and start to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

"We are done with nice words and bad health: People and public health must be put before multinational profits,” she said.

Meanwhile, Drinkaware, which is funded by donations from the alcohol and retail industry, welcomed the new rules and said they represent “a positive step forward to tackling Ireland’s serious underage drinking problems”, but warned a collective approach was required.

“We need to look at all aspects of the environment including the ones we can control ourselves such as children’s exposure to alcohol in the community and in the home. We know that 62% of drinking occasions happen in the home, and that 27% of first drinks are provided by a parent or relative, so we need to redress that,” CEO of Drinkaware, Sheena Horgan, said.

Patricia Callan Director of Drinks Ireland, the representative organisation for alcoholic drinks manufacturers and suppliers, said the body supports the objectives of the Alcohol Act but that “measures introduced should be proportionate, evidence-based and effective”.

“We have a proven track record of implementing positive change in this space. Since 2003, the drinks industry has proudly adhered to some of the strictest advertising codes in the world for both content and volume of alcohol advertising."

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