A new poll on banning unhealthy product advertising by The Australia Institute think tank found that Australians are on-board to ban alcohol advertisements.
Over 1000 Australians took part in the online survey. It asked whether people agreed or disagreed with five statements about banning certain types of TV advertising. These types of advertising were the already existing ban on tobacco ads and introducing bans on gambling, junk food during children’s viewing, alcohol and fossil fuels.
Support was high for bans of all of these types of harmful product advertising on Australian TV.
- 51% supported the ban on alcohol ads.
- 74% supported continuing the ban on tobacco ads.
- 71% supported banning gambling ads.
- 66% supported a ban on junk food ads during children’s viewing.
- 41% supported banning ads on fossil fuels.
People clearly want better protections from the promotion of harmful products.
Big Alcohol’s marketing onslaught
This poll is relevant considering the increased advertising by Big Alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic marketing of alcohol is part of the driver of a rise in alcohol use among Australians.
The alcohol industry exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to maximize profits by promoting alcohol use as a coping mechanism through marketing and pushing for increased online alcohol sale and delivery.
- One report by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the Cancer Council WA in 2020 found that Australians saw an alcohol advertisement every 35 seconds on Facebook and Instagram.
This study exposed pandemic themes in the alcohol industry advertising, including:
- Get easy access to alcohol without leaving your home (58%)
- Save money (55%),
- Buy more (35%),
- Consume alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic (24%),
- Use alcohol to cope, ‘survive’, or feel better (16%), and
- Choose ‘healthier’ alcohol products (14%).
As a result, alcohol sales grew massively in Australia during the pandemic years. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed:
- Australian alcohol retailers turned over $15.6 billion in sales in 2020;
- Alcohol retail sales grew only $195 million between 2018 and 2019 but soared by 27% between 2019 and 2020, growing by $3.3 billion more.
Alcohol marketing is harmful
While Big Alcohol increased sales and profits, it came at a cost to the Australian people. In 2020, for the first time in four years the number of Australians who used alcohol increased as per a Roy Morgan survey.
A report by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) found that alcohol problems among Australians increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Australians made over 25,000 calls to the National Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Hotline – triple the numbers seen pre-pandemic in 2019.
- Many of these people are calling due to an alcohol problem.
- Alcohol use accounts for a third of all AOD treatment in Australia.
A recent study by the University of Sydney found that alcohol use increased among Australian teens during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 compared to before the pandemic in 2019. There was a worrying sharp increase of 134% in alcohol use among teenage girls compared to boys.
The alcohol industry has been using new and ever more invasive methods of targeting young people online, such as through Dark Marketing. This type of marketing uses advertisements that appear fleetingly only for audiences targeted explicitly by the marketer, which makes it hard to track and almost impossible to regulate.
The harms caused by alcohol marketing are discussed more in-depth by Maik Dünnbier in his opinion piece “Three Ways Alcohol Marketing Causes Harm and One Effective Solution“.
The solution he provides in his column is to ban alcohol advertising or at least develop comprehensive regulations of alcohol marketing, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The new poll results show that Australian’s are on-board with this solution. What is needed is government action.