Urgent changes are needed following the release of the new Advertising Standards Authority Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion, with public health groups arguing it will continue in its failure to protect New Zealand kids and disadvantaged groups from the harmful effects of alcohol marketing.
"We continue to surrender responsibility to the alcohol industry and their advertisers to protect us from the harms of alcohol marketing. Nobody trusts alcohol companies to protect our children voluntarily. Alcohol marketing will still remain pervasive in everyday settings, particularly digital media" says Dr Nicki Jackson, Executive Director of Alcohol Healthwatch.
Research shows that exposure to alcohol marketing is a cause of young people taking up drinking earlier, and drinking larger amounts. Heavy drinkers can be more responsive to advertising and imagery, risking relapse or maintenance of dependence. "Regulating marketing, like we already do for tobacco and vaping, is an important step towards New Zealanders reaping the many physical and mental health benefits from drinking less", says Dr Jackson.
Selah Hart, Chief Executive of Hāpai te Hauora agrees. "We know that tamariki Māori and Pasifika children are disproportionately exposed to alcohol marketing. This drives and maintains the substantial inequities in alcohol harm that they experience. Protecting the wellbeing of our children, our young, and our most disadvantaged whānau must be more important than alcohol industry profits."
Reducing children and young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing is also highlighted in New Zealand’s Cancer Action Plan.
"Alcohol increases the risk of at least 7 types of cancer," says Lucy Elwood, Chief Executive of the Cancer Society of New Zealand.
"Independent recommendations for the Government to regulate alcohol marketing have been ignored for a decade. The 2010 Law Commission review called for stronger action, followed by the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship in 2014, and the Mental Health and Addictions inquiry in 2019. We don’t need any more working groups or expert panels to recommend regulating the marketing of alcohol, our most socially acceptable Group One carcinogen - what is clearly needed is political leadership in this area," comments Ms Elwood.
"Time and time again, industry actions have been shown to be ineffective. Industry dictating how they market their products doesn’t work, hasn’t worked, and won’t ever work. The Advertising Standards Authority codes are typically vague and confusing, permissive rather than restrictive, reactive rather than proactive. Complaints take weeks to resolve and there are no penalties for advertisers who breach the Code beyond being asked to remove an advertisement. This is not a process that empowers or protects communities," comments Dr Jackson.
"The alcohol industry dictating how they market their own products can be described as the fox guarding the hen house. The inherent conflict of interest is obvious, and it’s just not good enough to protect our children. We urge the Government to set the standards for how the industry is allowed to market its products. This will make a meaningful difference to improving the health of every New Zealander. Our health is more important than ever before."