A coalition of major health bodies has called for tougher rules on alcohol marketing in light of new research from the US which found a causal relationship between owning alcohol branded merchandise (ABM) and underage binge drinking.
The study, published in the US journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, revealed that teens who own T-shirts or other merchandise featuring an alcohol brand were more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age and were at increased risk of binge drinking.
Craig Sinclair, Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre at the Cancer Council Victoria and spokesperson for the Alcohol Policy Coalition said:
"This study is further evidence that deliberate and irresponsible marketing by alcohol companies is having a direct and detrimental effect on the drinking behaviour of young people.
"We know that children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising and alcohol companies are consistently using covert marketing techniques to get around the restrictions that apply to alcohol promotion.
"Here in Australia, we have alcohol companies exploiting loopholes in self-regulatory advertising codes by placing alcohol brands together with products that appeal to children and young people such as potato chips and pizzas.
"Alcohol companies are increasingly using these brand extension techniques to develop familiarisation among young people and encourage them to build a relationship with the brand. The APC has used the mechanisms available to complain about such practices but because they fall outside of the current self-regulation we haven't got anywhere."
Late last year the Alcohol Policy Coalition complained to the Advertising Standards Board that the Domino's 8 Meats pizza with Jim Beam BBQ sauce promotions contravened the Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code and the National Advertisers Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children. The complaint was rejected on the grounds that the pizza was marketed to both children and adults.
"Alcohol is already a substantial problem for young people and our experience suggests the codes which exist to prevent alcohol companies marketing to children and adolescents are incapable of protecting them," said Mr Sinclair.
The Alcohol Policy Coalition is a group of health agencies - the Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council of Victoria, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre and VicHealth - who share a concern about the level of alcohol misuse and the health and social consequences in the community. The Coalition's long-term goal is to promote a safer drinking culture in the community.
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