1 Aug 2018

Calls for restrictions on alcohol ads around kids

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:16 pm on 1 August 2018

Children are on average exposed to alcohol advertising 4.5 times a day while Māori kids see it five times that amount, a study has shown.

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Photo: Supplied

The combined Otago and Auckland University study had 158 children in the Wellington region wear automated cameras for four days straight. The cameras took photos every seven seconds. 

Children were exposed to alcohol advertising an average of 4.5 times each day. 

Otago University head researcher Tim Chambers said the research's findings were most likely low as the cameras were unable to capture screen advertising, and did not take exposure to adults' drinking or alcohol packaging into account.

He said there was strong evidence that alcohol advertising increased harms to children. 

"Children's overall exposure to alcohol marketing increases their chances of drinking, also the earlier they start drinking, and also the harms that are associated with that as an adult," Mr Chambers said.

He said there had been at least three systematic reviews of studies, and within those were three longitudinal studies. 

"And in all of them they’ve confirmed that there’s an association between exposure and drinking as an adult. 

"We now have the evidence that children are exposed to alcohol marketing - we know it does them harm, we know what we need to do about it - we just need to get the political will to do so."

Māori children were exposed at a rate five times the national average, while Pasifika kids were exposed three times the average. 

"This is actually a breach of the Treaty because there is not health equity for Māori and non-Māori. The crown has an obligation here to act," Mr Chambers said.

The reason for higher exposure was partly due to sport sponsorships.

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Sports clubs and franchises have long been part of alcohol companies' advertising strategies.  Photo: 123rf.com

"That's the thing about sports sponsorship is that it creates what is a health positive environment into one that is health damaging."

The government could counteract the damages of loss of income for sports clubs by adding an extra three-cent tax to each beer sold, he said.

The previous government had ignored recommendations of a Law Commission report and a Ministerial forum on alcohol advertising and sponsorship - they both recommended its ban.

"So, the government has now had two pretty comprehensive reports over the last decade in which there’s been no action."

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The study did not take into account how often children encountered alcohol packaging, or seeing their parents and other adults drinking, so the true exposure effect is likely much higher.  Photo: Supplied

Mr Chambers said he hoped the new government would champion the issue, although there had not been many signs of that and it had not done much to champion the cause in opposition.

"It shouldn't be placed in the government's too hard basket," he said.

"We need to change the current self-regulatory system of alcohol marketing in which the industry creates monitors and enforces their own rules.

"We don't allow the tobacco industry at the policy-making table any more so it doesn't seem right that we should we allow the alcohol industry at the policy-making table given they cause the most harm out of any drug in New Zealand."

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Alcohol-related harms is estimated to cost New Zealand about $5 billion a year. Photo: 123rf

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act under the previous government "was a very big chance for us as a country to make a big step in alcohol reform and we kind of squandered the opportunity", Mr Chambers said.

There needed to be more research and more regulation on online alcohol advertising, he said.

"We need legislative restrictions on alcohol marketing. There’s been proposed bills in the past that we could just emulate what they suggested - banning alcohol sponsorship of sport, giving the jurisdiction to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for the regulation of alcohol marketing, and tightening the restrictions on outdoor marketing. 

"We’re not actually advocating for them to get rid of alcohol, not arguing for prohibition … we’re just arguing for common sense regulation around what is New Zealand’s most harmful drug." 

Mr Chambers said alcohol-related harm cost New Zealand $5 billion a year, and current excise tax only took about $1bn in revenue. 

"Restrictions on alcohol marketing is the most cost-effective approach to reducing alcohol related harm and one that we should really be putting more energy into," he said. 

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