Aussie teens flooded with harmful alcohol marketing

Wednesday 7 September, 2022

New study shows high exposure to alcohol advertising increases likelihood of drinking

Cancer Council Victoria is calling for much tighter regulations on alcohol marketing with a new study revealing Victorian teens are exposed, on average, to an advertisement for alcohol every other day. Those with higher exposure to alcohol advertising are more likely to drink alcohol.

The study surveyed over 3,000 Victorian secondary school students, of whom nearly two-thirds were aged between 12 and 15 years, and looked at their exposure to alcohol advertising across eight different media channels and their reported alcohol consumption.

The study found that television (38%), internet (37%) and sporting games (30%) were the most common channels for students to report seeing alcohol advertising each week.

The data also revealed that students who were exposed to alcohol advertising on the internet and social media each week were more than 2.5 times more likely to be a ‘drinker’ compared to those seeing these ads less frequently.

Two-thirds of secondary school students reported having ever tried alcohol and around one in six reported having consumed alcohol in the past month. More than three-quarters (77%) of all students reported seeing advertisements for alcohol in the past month.

Professor Vicki White from Deakin University, who is study co-author and Senior Honorary Research Associate at Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer says that the amount of advertising for alcohol that children are seeing is concerning.

“Children should be able to go about their lives without being bombarded by advertising for alcohol products that we know are harmful to their health.

“The majority of young Victorians have consumed alcohol, and this is no surprise when we know they are regularly seeing advertising for these harmful products.

“This study makes it clear that the more young people are exposed to advertising for alcohol, the more likely they are to drink. This suggests that we should be doing everything in our power to protect children from being exposed to the influence of alcohol advertising.”

Jane Martin Executive Manager of Alcohol Programs at Cancer Council Victoria said that the consumption of alcohol by young people can have serious impacts on their health.

“Drinking alcohol from a young age can have serious impacts on a young person’s health. It affects their brain development, sleep, mood, energy levels and increases the risk of serious diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease and cancer into adulthood,” she said.

“Public health guidelines recommend that people under the age of 18 don’t drink alcohol at all but this important health message is being undermined by children’s constant exposure to alcohol through seductive marketing campaigns and tactics.”

She said that greater regulation is needed to protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing.

“For too long, we’ve been letting the alcohol and advertising industries develop and oversee their own codes for marketing to children. Industry run codes don’t work, and this research has made that very clear,” Ms Martin said.

“We need regulations to set higher standards for the way the alcohol industry can market its products to ensure children are not seeing this advertising in their daily lives, including on TV, billboards, on the internet or at sporting events.

“It’s time we put our kids’ health above the profits of the alcohol industry,” she said.


About the research:

This study reports on findings from the Victorian component of the Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug survey (ASSAD) conducted in 2017. ASSAD is a comprehensive survey of smoking, alcohol and drug use among 12-17 year olds that has been coordinated by Cancer Council Victoria for more than 30 years. The 2017 survey in Victoria was a collaboration between Cancer Council Victoria, the Victorian Department of Health and the Australian Government Department of Health.

Link to study published in Drug and Alcohol Review: