Television advertising of alcohol should not be increased
The recent bid by commercial television interests to increase alcohol advertising during prime time television, and in particular to allow more alcohol ads during major sporting events, deserves our vigorous condemnation.
As we should all know by now, to protect our children and their vulnerable developing brains, such TV alcohol ads should be substantially reduced, and preferably banned altogether. Unsurprisingly, peak health bodies are also outraged by plans by the liquor industry to make it even more difficult for us as citizens to complain about ads that we regard as breaching national advertising codes.
Indeed we must do all we can to decry the use of sport to encourage Australians and in particular teenagers to drink to excess. And while most risky drinking of alcohol currently affects many more males than females, evidence suggests that more young women are being induced to drink unsafely.
There is no doubt about the current connection between sport and the promotion of risky drinking, including that by teenage boys and girls. For example, after Australia’s World Cup victory, cricketing legend Shane Warne insisted on asking wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, “Are you feeling thirsty? Warne persisted with a similar line of questioning to other prominent cricketers, including Steve Smith, Shane Watson and Josh Hazlewood: “So what’s the plan – besides lots of drink and that? How long is that going to last – Just one night, two nights?
But it wasn’t just Warne.
Haddin went one better, offering to have a drink with everyone present at the MCG.
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re right to be disappointed, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Not from a sport that worships at the feet of big alcohol. Not from a sport that accepts millions of dollars from a leading brewer for the honour of wearing its logo on their shirts.
Alcohol companies deliberately advertise during sporting events, and sponsor sports and teams, so as to link sporting success with alcohol and to reach our children, the next generation of potential drinkers.
And they do it very successfully
The reality is that some of our sporting codes have made extremely vigorous attempts to denounce the use of recreational and performance-enhancing drugs by sportsmen and sportswomen, while happily turning a blind eye to the generous sponsorship and promotion of their sport by the drinks industry.
What utter hypocrisy!
The only way of breaking the similar nexus between sport and smoking was to totally ban tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport. This wasn’t easy but it was achieved eventually.
It’s well and truly time that alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport was banned. No ifs and no buts.
One of the most outrageous links between alcohol and sport is the toxic combination of beer sponsorship of televised motor sports in Australia. In some countries, such as Japan, the drinks industry had the good sense to stop their members sponsoring motor sports. Australia should prohibit alcohol advertising and sponsorship of any motor sports event. As alcohol and other drugs reformer Dr Alex Wodak puts it: “Teenage males watching hours of televised cars driven at high speed in association with alcoholic drinks is just asking for trouble.
For decades, the drinks industry has been allowed to keep ‘self regulatingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ its own advertising – despite numerous evaluations showing this to be a farce. The fact that the drinks industry has been able to prevent each and every attempt to properly and independently regulate alcohol advertising is yet another indication of the immense power of the drinks industry in this country.
It is utterly ridiculous that, in Australia, the drinks industry maintains self-regulation of advertising, marketing and promotion, despite clear documentation of their abuse of this system – which has them as authors of the rules as well as being judge and jury.
Surely it’s well and truly time that the public interest and national well-being was placed above the commercial and financial interests of the alcohol and liquor industry?
Professor Ross Fitzgerald’s memoir MY NAME IS ROSS: AN ALCOHOLICÃ¢â‚¬â„¢S JOURNEY is available as an e-Book and a Talking Book with Vision Australia.
The Weekend Australian, April 18-19, 2015, online