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IN his letter (August 31), Dr Bobby Smyth accuses the drinks industry of “bombarding” children with alcohol adverts, and questions our bona fides in regard to addressing alcohol misuse.
His basis for doing so is not based in fact or rational analysis. Rather it is founded on his own “scepticism” about the drinks industry’s motives and interests. Dr Smyth is entitled to his opinion. But however much he refuses to acknowledge our efforts, the fact remains that Ireland has among the strictest and most comprehensive set of codes in the world governing the advertising of alcohol.
Moreover, his suggestion that we actively target children is not only contemptible, but is contrary to the truth.
Together with government we have agreed that adverts placed by a drinks company in this country can only be shown if 25% of the audience is over the age of 18 – this applies to TV, radio, cinema and outdoor media. In addition, no alcohol advertisement can be placed in any programme specifically aimed at children/young people regardless of the audience profile. Each broadcaster has designated a list of such programmes and supplied it to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.
The independent monitoring body established to oversee these rules has stated that the drinks industry is complying with the codes.
Furthermore the rules on the content of alcohol advertising states that no advertisement can depict anyone under the age of 25, nor can it show or encourage immoderate consumption or associate drinking with social or sexual success. In addition, all alcohol ads are pre-vetted by an independent agency (Central Copy Clearance Ireland) to ensure it meets these standards.
I should also point out that only one complaint about the content of alcohol advertising has been upheld in the past three years.
The reason a simple ban on alcohol advertising will not work is because over half the television viewed in Ireland is from non-Irish broadcasters that operate outside of domestic legislation and regulation. Therefore, young people will continue to be exposed to ads on foreign TV. Moreover, electronic media is also outside the remit of domestic legislation, meaning a ban in Ireland will have absolutely no impact on advertising on the internet or popular websites.
The drinks industry wants consumers to enjoy alcohol responsibly. Binge drinking, alcohol misuse and excessive consumption are contrary to our interests as they lead to further regulation that will impact on our ability to trade, but will not necessarily address the causes of misuse.
The drinks industry will continue to play its part in the responsible promotion, sale and advertising of our products. If Dr Smyth wishes to take issue with this approach or our methods, he should do so on the basis of facts rather than personal prejudice against our industry.
Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland
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