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Health monitor calls for ban on alcohol marketing

| Legislation

Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Project Africa says a complete ban on alcohol marketing is the only way to deal with its negative effects on citizens, especially the youth

Low compliance with responsible marketing principles and the effects of early exposure to alcohol advertising have prompted a call for a total ban of alcohol advertising and marketing.

Two recent studies have come to this conclusion, saying a ban would to reduce alcohol consumption among the youth.

The Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Project Africa (Mampa) says the only way of dealing with the negative effects of alcohol marketing on citizens, especially young people, is to ban alcohol marketing altogether.

Mampa is a public health surveillance programme devoted to monitoring alcohol marketing activities in Africa as well as youth exposure to such marketing activities.

Its conclusion on outlawing alcohol marketing follows an analysis of 282 alcohol advertising and marketing materials from rural and urban areas in seven countries, excluding SA.

The results from studies done in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi and Namibia found that 27% of the 282 sampled advertisements contained at least one violation of alcohol advertising regulations set by the International Centre for Alcohol Policies (Icap).

Icap principles require producers of alcoholic beverages, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bacardi Martini and Heineken, to practise responsible marketing communications, particularly in the areas of consumption, health and safety, along with on the effects of alcohol and responsible messaging to minors.

Violation rates significantly differed between media platforms, with 72.2% of television ads violating principles while outdoor adverts had the lowest amount of violations at 21.6%.

However, some types of outdoor ads, such as billboards and posters, contained higher violation rates averaging between 37.3% and 30.8%, respectively.

In 69 ads alcohol was presented as a stimulant, sedative or tranquilliser, suggesting that alcohol can "prevent, treat or cure illness or resolve personal problems", violating the principle of health and safety in marketing communications.

Meanwhile, the Addiction supplement, which comprises 14 papers with research presented from around the world, found a significant association between youth exposure to alcohol marketing and subsequent drinking behaviour.

The authors said holding commercial operators accountable for their marketing practices was a critical element in the continued development and strengthening of public health policies that could ultimately require a global agreement on alcohol marketing.

The Mampa report recommended that regulations be independent of the alcohol industry, whose primary interest lay in growing its markets and maximising profits.

However, industry giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, which bought local producer SABMiller for £79bn, said they believed that the most effective ways to address alcohol abuse involved targeted interventions focusing on those drinking patterns that were associated with harm.

The company told Business Day that approaches like education, strong self-regulation and good enforcement had been proven to be effective in their business.

SAB’s head of media and communications, Robyn Chalmers, said the company spent more than R40m a year on initiatives aimed at encouraging responsible consumption.

Even then, SA’s draft liquor amendment bill that is currently open for public comment, advocates for additional restrictions on advertising alcohol. It also promotes the ban on the selling of alcohol within a 500m radius of schools.

Another proposal being considered is to increase the age limit to buy alcohol from 18 to 21.

South Africans are among the top consumers of alcohol in the world, while the most risky drinking behaviour is found in Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, SA and Ukraine.

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