Home > Self-regulation of alcohol advertising is on probation.

Pike, Brigid (2006) Self-regulation of alcohol advertising is on probation. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 17, Spring 2006, p. 6.

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On 15 December 2005 the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, launched the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body. It will oversee the implementation of and adherence to voluntary codes of practice intended to limit the exposure of young people (aged under 18 years) to alcoholic drink advertising via cinema, TV, radio or outdoor/ambient media.

The voluntary codes were drawn up by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, the Association of Advertisers in Ireland and representatives of the media in response to concerns raised by the Department of Health and Children. The codes cover both the content and the placement of alcohol advertisements. The Monitoring Body will comprise representatives of the Health Promotion Unit of the Department of Health and Children, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland and the Advertising Standards Authority. Peter Cassells, Chair of the National Centre for Partnership and Performance, will be the independent chair.

The Tánaiste stated that she will be receiving an annual report from the Monitoring Body, which will document breaches of the codes. If it is apparent that the voluntary control system is not performing credibly or effectively, she will have ‘no hesitation’ in progressing the Alcohol Products Bill, designed to restrict alcohol advertising and marketing practices by law.1

It may be anticipated that the first annual report of the Monitoring Body will be published in early 2007. In reading this report, interest will focus on two questions - the effectiveness and sufficiency of the voluntary codes and self-regulation by alcohol advertisers, as opposed to regulation by law; and the balance between the competing interests of government, the public and the alcohol industry on the Monitoring Body and its impact on policy outcomes.

Recent Irish research and inquiries have not reached consensus on how best to control alcohol advertising. There have been recommendations for revisions of the advertising codes and the establishment of effective monitoring,2 for self-regulation by means of a steering group including the drinks and advertising industries to establish an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance with codes and regulations,3  for legislative controls,4 and for an outright ban on alcohol advertising.5

It is evident that, at EU level, there is a similar lack of consensus on the most appropriate means of ensuring a reduction in the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising and of ensuring that commercial communications do not encourage excessive or harmful use of alcohol. In a discussion paper on a possible EU alcohol strategy to complement national policies,6 the European Commission has proposed a series of actions, which indicate a continuing exploration of the options:

·       Analyse the experiences of regulatory and self-regulatory mechanisms in the member states.

·       Examine how the application of Article 15 of the Television without Frontiers Directive could be more effective, for example in relation to volume, timing, context and placement of advertisements and how to increase the awareness of benefits to consumers.

·       Participate in a process of co-regulation, whereby self-regulatory approaches adopted by the beverage alcohol industry are monitored by an independent body.

·      Use research findings as the basis of measures to reduce commercial communication to young people.

In a further twist in the debate, the authors of a recent survey of alcohol-related research and public policy7 found that not only has sophisticated alcohol marketing facilitated the recruitment of new cohorts of young people to the ranks of heavier drinkers but it has also worked against health promotion messages. Pending a resolution of the debate on how effectively to reduce the impact of alcohol advertising on young people, the authors suggest that policy makers should seek to ensure ‘a more level playing-field for the reception of health promotion messages by the young’.  

1.       For further information on the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body and the voluntary codes, visit the website of the Department of Health and Children.

2.       Dring C and Hope A (2001) The impact of alcohol advertising on teenagers in Ireland. Dublin: Department of Health and Children.

3.       Strategic Task Force on Alcohol (2002) Interim report. Dublin: Department of Health and Children.

4.       Strategic Task Force on Alcohol (2004) Second report. Dublin: Department of Health and Children. See S Power (2005, 6 October) Parliamentary Debates Dáil Éireann Official Report: Unrevised. Vol. 607, col. 122–123 for a justification of the government’s decision to ignore the Task Force’s recommendation to legislate: ‘The Department is satisfied that the code [as opposed to legislative controls] will result in a significant reduction in the exposure of young people to alcohol advertisements, which is the aim of the recommendation of the task force.’

5.       Joint Committee on Health and Children (2004) Report on alcohol misuse by young people. Dublin: Houses of the Oireachtas.

6.       See ‘Discussion paper on the EU strategy on alcohol’, prepared by officials in the Health & Consumer Protection Directorate-General of the European Commission, for a meeting of the Working Group on Alcohol and Health on 7–8 March 2005 in Luxembourg.

7.       Babor T, Caetano R, Casswell S et al. (2003) Alcohol: No ordinary commodity – research and public policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 17, Spring 2006
January 2006
Page Range
p. 6
Health Research Board
Issue 17, Spring 2006
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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