From April 1, 2021 the alcohol industry is expected to adhere to a revised Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol for all new advertisements. But this code is not a law. As the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) said the code is voluntary and does not legally require adherence by the alcohol industry.
The committee which developed the code did not protect the policy formulation from conflicts of interest and included parties with vested interests such as the alcohol industry, advertising agencies and the media.
As per the code, complaints must be made against advertisements which violate the code for the ASA to take any action. This means if no complaint is made ads which expose children and youth to alcohol can continue. Even when action is taken there is no penalty. The maximum “penalty” under the new code is that the advertisement gets pulled. But by then the damage has already been done.
The nature of social media advertising means parents often don’t see the ads that their children see and hence complaints are not made. And often, pulling the ad is no penalty at all because the additional attention generated through the complaint process is cheap PR for Big Alcohol.
Even when complaints are made, the ASA’s complaints board contains media and advertising representatives from the alcohol industry – a clear conflict of interest.
It’s like marking your own homework,” said Dr. Nick Eichler, ARPHS medical officer of health, as per Stuff.Dr. Nick Eichler, ARPHS medical officer of health
An ASA spokesperson said the new Code requires a “high level of social responsibility” for advertisers. But the alcohol industry has already been exposed to violate their own advertising code in New Zealand.
Dr. Nicki Jackson and colleagues published a letter in the New Zealand Medical Journal. It has the telling title “Ineffective, meaningless, inequitable: analysis of complaints to a voluntary alcohol advertising code”. According to the analysis laid out in the letter Big Alcohol violates its own codes in multiple and systematic ways:
- Promotion of health and lifestyle benefits of alcohol,
- Promotion of alcohol as a coping mechanism,
- Sexualisation of women,
- Location of billboards very close to school grounds,
- Promotion of alcohol consumption games, and
- Using “heroes of the young” to promote alcohol.
The harm from these violations are also well documented. According to research presented in The Conversation last year, children were exposed to an average of 46 ads for unhealthy products every day including 12 alcohol ads.
Communities call for tobacco-style alcohol marketing regulation
New Zealand has a good model for restricting tobacco advertising. Communities have long been calling for similar laws for alcohol as for tobacco.
It was one recommendation of the 2010 Law Commission report. Nevertheless, over a decade has passed since the report but the government has failed to implement this recommendation giving in to alcohol industry lobbying pressure. This has led to children and young people in New Zealand being exposed to an avalanche of alcohol advertisements wherever they go, on billboards, main media, social and digital media.
ARPHS and the region’s DHBs have asked the government to take a similar approach to alcohol policy as with tobacco, and supported Minister Kris Faafoi’s comments on reviewing the decade-old Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.
We need to do more to prevent harm, including protecting our children and young people from the influences of alcohol advertising and marketing,” said Dr. Vanessa Thornton, Clinical director for Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department, as per Stuff.Dr. Vanessa Thornton, Clinical director, Middlemore Hospital’s emergency department