The coronavirus has massively impacted peoples lives. This has created a cocktail of vulnerability that powerful industries have been exploiting to increase their profits.
Communities are deeply concerned that alcohol harms are becoming more severe as people consume alcohol at home during COVID-19. VicHealth has identified four tactics the alcohol industry has used to target vulnerable people during coronavirus.
#1 Promoting alcohol use as the way to catch up socially online
Linking virtual catch-ups with alcohol products is a way for Big Alcohol to make a profit, but puts vulnerable people and communities in harm’s way.
Alcohol companies have exploited people’s need for social connection as a way to sell their products, like online pub and trivia nights. Even more concerning, these alcohol-focused events don’t include the basic alcohol service standards the community expects to protect vulnerable people.
These promotions aren’t just impacting adults. Recent data released by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) showed one in five parents (19%) increased their alcohol consumption during isolation, citing ‘video socialising’ as a factor in their increased alcohol intake.
FACT 1: Using alcohol products while socialising online is “not healthy, especially not for Australia’s kids, who may have witnessed their parents’ alcohol habits change rapidly,” said the ADF as part of their new awareness campaign You haven’t been drinking alone.
#2 Encouraging alcohol consumption as a way to cope with the raging pandemic
Many people have experienced boredom, stress and anxiety related to added pressures and responsibilities, due to being isolated from colleagues and friends during coronavirus restrictions.
Big Alcohol is aggressively exploiting this vulnerability. They are promoting their harmful products as “coping tools”. The alcohol industry wants everyone to think their products will help. The ADF has shared further examples of concerning alcohol advertising strategies on their website.
For example, alcohol use affects sleep negatively, and with alcohol delivery services choosing profits over safety with their greedy practices, people, including vulnerable parents, are exposed to an even greater risk of consuming more alcohol and losing more sleep – and all the positive effects of a good night’s rest.
FACT 2: Levels of anxiety often increase the day after drinking alcohol. If you’re already feeling anxious about coronavirus then it’s best to limit the amount of alcohol you consume to no more than ten standard drinks spread across the week.
FACT 3: The sleep quality is reduced due to alcohol consumption. This becomes more likely the more alcohol a person use. Good quality sleep is vital for general health and wellbeing. Lack of restfull sleep can exacerbate anxiety and harm mental and physical health.
#3 Showing one alcohol ad every 35-seconds on social media during coronavirus restrictions
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that alcohol advertising had increased during coronavirus restrictions.
Over 100 alcohol ads in one hour demonstrates the relentlessness of digital alcohol marketing during the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Cancer Council WA Alcohol Program Manager Julia Stafford.
Many of these ads promoted buying more alcohol and drinking alcohol to cope or ‘survive’ isolation and the pandemic.”Julia Stafford, Manager, Cancer Council WA Alcohol Program
The alcohol is promoting alcohol consumption with harmful concepts, such as:
- ‘wine from home’,
- ‘Stay in. Drink up’, and
- ‘confinement sale’.
Big Alcohol is clearly exploiting the global health crisis for its own private profit maximization.
FACT 4: An alcohol advertisement was shown every 35 seconds on social media during coronavirus restrictions.
#4 The ‘health halo’ – Linking their products to health
Describing alcohol products with words like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ is a deliberate tactic to make them seem healthier – called a ‘health halo’ – when in reality there are no healthy alcohol products.
These words are just designed to fool people. And while this tactic was used before the coronavirus pandemic, it’s particularly concerning now. Why? Because we know that alcohol use reduces the body’s immune response to infection, regardless of whether the alcohol product is ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.
FACT 5: When it comes to alcohol products, it doesn’t matter how many healthy-sounding words are in the ad – it’s the ethanol in the product itself that is harmful, including being a cause of seven different cancers, according to the Cancer Council WA LiveLighter website.
Big Alcohol puts profits over people. Promoting their products are necessary, helpful or healthy is all part of their aggressive sales push, no matter the cost to people’s health and family life.