Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 02-June-2006, Vol 119 No 1235
Alcohol advertising in New Zealand
It is good to see that the NZMA Council recognises the importance of tackling the causes of the youth alcohol culture of this country. We do not treat cholera just with drugs, we examine the water supply.
The severely worsening statistics for alcohol harm, especially for women and young teenagers, call for radical thinking about the multiple causes, and their long-term solution, not just regulatory, pricing, or policing measures, important though they are.
Our Group Against Liquor Advertising, actioned largely by doctors, wonders if most of your Council or general members realise the mechanism of the situation. The liquor industry worsens the youth alcohol culture, by linking alcohol with sexuality, and with heroes of the young via sport. This is directly against their voluntary code. That code soothes the public and regulatory bodies, and helps to sustain the industry’s place, and that of the advertisers, at the policy table.
Highly sophisticated advertising , some electronic, is largely “beneath the parental radar,” and promotes youth alcohol culture. Scottish researchers have found that the industry knows the distinct preferences of even 11–14 year olds (who like inexpensive sweet drinks and colourful, wacky packaging) and 15–17 year olds (who prefer sophisticated adult brand names).1 Compelling evidence of brand identity entering the culture of young people, including Maori, is found in articles by McCreanor and others.2,3
We invite those concerned, especially about young people, to visit our website (http://www.gala.org.nz). We are not prohibitionists, nor are we against the enjoyment of civilised drinking. Our main policy statement, listed on the homepage, summarises this large subject, and provides links to evidence-based research.
Perhaps some will want to help a small unfunded body tackling a hugely financed Goliath, a situation similar to that of the early tobacco activists, Already we alone have the distinction of achieving a forthcoming Officials’ Review on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship. This year is an important one for the NZMA, to achieve policy to match the statements of world leaders in this matter, the WHO, and AMA.
But again, neither your members, nor most journalists, would realise how undemocratic alcohol politics can be. The recently appointed “independent” members of the Review Committee had to be approved by the first appointees, one of whom had financial interests and whose performance was being judged. Alcohol advertising policies have been determined by reviews run by the advertisers for years. On the last occasion, they increased the television alcohol advertising time, making it earlier in the evening.
Committee Member, Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA)
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