Minister for Health Micheál Martin is determined to introduce legislation if advertisers and drinks companies will not co-operate.
Alcohol abuse is leading to increasing underage drinking, street crime, overflowing Accident and Emergency Departments and car accidents, according to the Government Task Force on Alcohol. This costs the country over €2.3 billion a year and the Department of Health sees alcohol advertising as an area it must urgently address.
“The abuse of alcohol is having a huge effect on health and society. There are drunken teenagers but also drunken fathers and drunken mothers. The drinks industry will be given a chance to co-operate but if not, there will be statutory legislation,” said a Department of Health spokesperson.
The options available include banning the sponsorship of all events directed at children. This could have serious consequences for the Hurling Championship, which is sponsored by Guinness and the Witnness festival, also sponsored by Guinness. A watershed may be put in place, banning TV alcohol ads until after 9pm.
The Department’s approach is based on the recent report by the Task Force on Alcohol. It said alcohol advertising “has a strong attraction for teenagers, as it portrays lifestyles and images which are part of their social setting”.
But advertisers have reacted with shock to the latest announcement.
“We met with the Department of Health 10 days ago and they told us nothing about this,” said Association of Advertisers of Ireland chief executive Michael Carragher.
He said alcohol abuse was a social problem. “Further restrictions on alcohol advertising won’t work. There is already a code of practice for advertisers and we’ve cracked down quite heavily on alcohol advertising.”
However, this year, several of the major drinks companies have breached their own code of practice. The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland banned the ads but many have been viewed for weeks before being taken off the air.
In response, the drinks industry is funding a “copy clearance” group to check ads before they are published.
“We believe that self regulation is the best for the consumer. If legislation is introduced, the consumer has to go to the courts and that’s a long and expensive process.
“The current system is accessible, free to the public and prompt,” said Mr Carragher.
1)Guinness - The Volcano ad featured a man walking over lava to save a cask of Guinness from a damaged building -TV
BANNED - The ad was banned because it showed that drink encouraged feats of daring.
2)Carlsberg - Carlsberg don’t do holidays but if they did they would probably be the best holidays in the world - TV
BANNED - The ad should not have appeared to show an attractive picture of ‘holidaying based on drinking’ as this would appear to underage drinkers, boys in particular.
3) Heineken - The first time - TV The ad showed three young men prompting a hesitant member of their group to approach a bar and accept a glass of Heineken, while a beautiful woman looked on.
BANNED - The advertisement was not ‘socially responsible’ because it encouraged a young looking man to overcome his fears about his first drink.
4) Carlsberg Dream ad - TV
The complainants objected to the commercial on the grounds that Robbie Keane is under 25 years of age and that Jason McAteer is someone who would particularly appeal to people under 18 years of age.
ALTERED - Anyone depicted in an alcohol advertisement should be over 25 and should appear to be so. Robbie Keane was removed from the ad.
5) Guinness - Goodness - Billboard
The poster showed a pint of stout with the word “Goodness” written on it. The complainant found this offensive and considered it was misleading to portray alcohol as goodness.
BANNED - The Committee considered the ad was in breach of the Code.