ABA: No causal relationship between advertising and youth consumption

11 December, 2017 by Andy Young

In September this year the NSW Legislative Council established an inquiry to look into the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill 2015; last week the inquiry heard from a number of parties to understand their views on alcohol advertising.

One of those who spoke to the inquiry last week was Fergus Taylor, Executive Director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, who told the inquiry about a number of misconceptions and claims made about alcohol advertising and the industry at large.

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“While [the] key indicators for alcohol-related harm and underage drinking have been headed in the right direction for well over a decade, the strictly regulated advertising, marketing and promotion of alcohol beverages has increased exponentially and moved on to a whole range of exciting new online and social platforms,” Taylor told the inquiry.

“This, on its own, clearly demonstrates that the advertising, marketing and promotion of alcohol beverages does not drive underage drinking or harmful drinking.

“The Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill would impose on New South Wales communities one of the most restrictive approaches to alcohol advertising in the world, including prohibition, despite research and international examples that show the population-wide measures proposed in the bill do not provide the targeted and evidence-based approach required to reduce alcohol-related harm.

“Further, our advertising and marketing is strictly regulated to ensure it does not contain content that appeals to young people or encourages dangerous consumption, and much of it includes responsible consumption messaging.”

Taylor added: “There is no research that establishes a causal relationship between alcohol advertising and youth alcohol consumption. It is important to recognise that as a committee. It is a fundamental starting point for your deliberations. You would hear a lot of testimony, and I have seen it in the submissions, to the effect that there is an ‘association’ and there is a ‘correlation’ and there is a ‘relationship’.

“These represent nothing more than an awareness.

“Once you appreciate that the advertising you are seeking to ban is not causing the problem you are trying to solve, it becomes a moot point.”

In terms of recommendations and the possible impact of increasing the ban on alcohol advertising, Taylor highlighted to the inquiry the potential impact it would have on jobs and small businesses, while ultimately not really achieving its goal.

“We all want to continue to reduce underage alcohol consumption and alcohol misuse,” Taylor said. “To achieve this, ABA recommends the Government keeps the focus on evidence-based regulation and policies that target specific harms.

“Broad-based interventions like this, like banning advertising, they punish moderate consumers, they impact on moderate consumers. In terms of the industry, they are targeting overall consumption. But these are the consumers who are not doing themselves or anyone else any harm.

“That is one consideration. At a more primary level, if you are talking about local options, that would decimate thousands of businesses and it would cost thousands of jobs. If you were to suddenly say in my local government area of Marrickville that you are not allowed to sell, deliver or publicly consume alcohol, you would instantly put hundreds of restaurants, craft breweries, pubs, clubs and sporting clubs out of business.

“They would not be able to survive. The cost to the community would be immense. But most importantly, for the industry this represents a vilification of the industry that is at odds with the industry’s objective and is at odds with the way the majority of people enjoy our products.”

The inquiry also heard from DrinkWise CEO John Scott, Jayne Taylor the ABAC Scheme Limited’s Executive Officer, Alec Wagstaff the CEO of DSICA and the WFA CEO, Tony Battaglene and TheShout will report on their testimony over this week.