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Home > Report of AAI conference, ‘Have we bottled it?’.

Mongan, Deirdre (2011) Report of AAI conference, ‘Have we bottled it?’. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 36, Winter 2010, pp. 14-15.

PDF (Drugnet Ireland, issue 36) - Published Version

Alcohol Action Ireland’s conference ‘Have We Bottled It? Alcohol Marketing and Young People’on 15 September brought together national and international experts in the area of alcohol marketing to discuss what alcohol marketing is, how it works, and what can be done to reduce its impact, particularly on young people.  Alcohol is one of the most heavily marketed products on our shelves, with an estimated market value of €6 billion in Ireland in 2010. 

Extent of alcohol-related harm in Ireland
The conference was opened by Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer in the Department of Health and Children. He described the extent of alcohol-related harm in Ireland, stating that:
·         One hundred people die each month from alcohol-related causes.
·         More than four times as many people die from alcohol than from all other drugs combined.
·         One in four deaths involving males aged 15–34 is caused by alcohol, compared to one in 25 being due to cancer.
·         Half of suicides by young males are alcohol related.
·         One in six child abuse cases are attributed to alcohol.
·         Half of the perpetrators and victims of sexual assault are drunk at the time of the assault.
·         Alcohol is responsible for 2,000 beds occupied in hospitals every night.

Attitudes to the sale and marketing of alcohol
Fiona Ryan, director of Alcohol Action Ireland, described the results of an AAI-commissioned survey that aimed to measure attitudes to alcohol purchasing and consumption and to the sale and marketing of alcohol. This survey had a national representative sample of more than 1,000 adults aged 16 and over and was conducted in August 2010. The main findings of the study included:
·         92% stated that the overall attitude towards drinking alcohol and the behaviour that goes with it need to change.
·         81% said there should be a ban on all alcohol advertising on television and radio until after 9.00 pm.
·         52% said that all outdoor advertising for alcohol brands should be banned.
·         50% said that there should be a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sports teams or events.
The survey also found that two out of three Irish adults favour a minimum price for alcohol, with almost half saying they would buy less if the price was increased by just 10%. The survey also looked at the awareness of alcohol advertising and merchandise among 16–17-year-olds:
·         39% owned alcohol-branded merchandise, such as clothing.
·         26% had a sports jersey with an alcohol brand on it.
·         Five of their top-10 favourite television advertisements were alcohol-related.
·         30% had viewed an alcohol advertisement on the online social networking site Facebook.
Ms Ryan said the findings illustrate how deeply alcohol marketing infiltrates the lives of children and that it contributes to the normalisation of alcohol among young people.  She also stated that alcohol-related harm costs this country around €3.7 billion a year, including health, absenteeism and crime-related costs – that means €3,318 for everyone paying income tax
Impact of marketing on children and limitations of current regulations
Professor Gerard Hastings of the University of Stirling said that longitudinal studies consistently suggest that exposure to media and commercial communications on alcohol is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink alcohol, and with increased drinking among baseline drinkers. He also said that the existing Irish regulations do not work and do not limit the exposure of children to marketing. In conclusion, he said that we need a major reduction in the amount of alcohol marketing.

Dr Bobby Smyth, child and adolescent psychiatrist, outlined the harms arising from drinking in adolescence. In relation to the current system of monitoring alcohol marketing, he said that advertising guidelines were nonsense and that society had been tricked by a hugely resourced industry.

Marketing lecturer Pat Kenny spoke of the increase in online marketing and described how this form of marketing provides more meaningful interaction with the consumer compared to traditional forms of advertising. He also said that the industry guidelines were not being adhered to online.

Interviews with the speakers and copies of their presentations can be accessed at 

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