Alcohol manufacturers spent almost €24m last year on advertising, an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday.
This does not include the €67m advertising spend of supermarkets up to a quarter of which relates to alcohol.
Speaking at the Oireachtas health committee, the advertising body working for alcohol manufacturers expressed concern at Government plans to impose additional restrictions on alcohol advertising.
However, a marketing expert and a youth organisation told the committee there was no doubt that alcohol marketing drove consumption and that Government planned limits did not go far enough.
An alcohol advertising watchdog said its three most recent annual reports — for 2012, 2013 and 2014 — had not been published by the Minister for Justice.
This is despite the fact almost a fifth of shops were not complying with advertising restrictions and that standalone off-licences were not even bound by its regulations.
Beginning yesterday’s session, which is part of an ongoing examination of the Public Alcohol Bill 2015, committee chair Jerry Buttimer said that Fergus Finlay, chairman of the Diageo-funded Stop Out of Control Drinking campaign, had been listed to address the committee but had written to it declining to attend at this stage.
Barry Dooley of the Association of Advertisers in Ireland said it worked with alcohol companies Diageo, Heineken, Bulmers, IDL Pernod Richard and Edward Dillon & Co. He said these companies spent €23.5m on advertising in 2014.
He said this did not include the €66.8m spend of multiples, such as Dunnes Stores, Super Valu, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and others. Legally, multiples are allowed to spend up to a quarter of their advertising on alcohol.
Mr Dooley said Ireland had among “the strictest” alcohol advertising regulations in the world and queried Government plans to impose further restrictions.
Dublin Institute of Technology marketing lecturer Patrick Kenny said longitudinal studies from various countries “clearly indicate” that the more alcohol marketing young people are exposed to, the more they are likely to start drinking and to drink more. He criticised the new Diageo-funded campaign, suggesting it was “a clever exercise in corporate branding”.
He added: “The alcohol industry might also wish to explain how it can simultaneously maintain that tens of millions of euro spent promoting alcohol does not lead to increased drinking but that one or two million euro promoting safe drinking will lead to less drinking.”
Padraic White, chairman of Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland, said three of his last annual reports had not yet been published by the Minister for Justice. He said average compliance with its regulations was 87%, falling to 81% among shops.
Mr White said it had consistently urged the Department of Health to draw up a code of conduct for standalone off-licences, which are not bound by Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland regulations.
James Doorley of the National Youth Council of Ireland said it was concerned that children were starting to “drink at a younger age and drink greater volumes”.
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