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‘Unprecedented’ exposure of children to alcohol marketing shows self-regulation has failed

24 Feb 2014

The AMA is calling for immediate action following the release today of a damning report by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) showing young people are being exposed to unprecedented volumes of drinking ads.

As support builds for the AMA’s call for a National Summit on alcohol misuse, the ANPHA report found that current regulations on the placement and content of alcohol advertising are failing to protect Australian children and, in some cases, are facilitating their exposure to alcohol advertising.

AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said the existing regulatory regime was badly flawed because it was voluntary, limited in scope, poorly enforced and without meaningful penalties for breaches.

“Ultimately, it fails to protect young people from continuous exposure to alcohol marketing,” Dr Hambleton said.

The ANPHA report found that young people were being exposed to an unprecedented volume and variety of alcohol marketing, despite industry self-regulation.

Dr Hambleton said one of the most obvious failings was a loophole in the Commercial Television Industry code of practice that allowed alcohol to be marketed during live sports broadcasts, exposing many children and adolescents to alcohol advertising.

“We have great concerns,” the AMA President said.

“The sheer volume of alcohol marketing that is reaching our children is extraordinary, showing that industry self-regulation is failing.”

The ANPHA report found evidence that alcohol advertising influenced the behaviour of young people, leading them to begin drinking at an earlier age, and to consume alcohol more frequently and more heavily – establishing patterns of harmful drinking behaviour that persisted later in life.

Dr Hambleton said this made it imperative to curb alcohol marketing to young people.

“Let’s begin to fix the alcohol misuse in this country by starting with our children,” he said.

“The current system of self-regulation is inadequate. We need tough, legislated measures.”

The overall social and economic cost of alcohol misuse to the Australian community is estimated to be in excess of $15 billion per annum.

“This is an enormous impost on the community, and is in addition to the individual stress and harm caused by alcohol misuse,” Dr Hambleton said.

“The evidence is clear. We know what needs to be done to reduce this terrible toll.

“The AMA alerts Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Peter Dutton to this opportunity to make one of the structural changes being sought by Treasurer Joe Hockey to reduce the financial impact of alcohol misuse on our community,” Dr Hambleton said.

In its report, ANPHA stopped short of the AMA’s call for an independent statutory regulator for alcohol marketing, but nonetheless recommended a raft of reforms to strengthen regulations and address gaps.

“While the AMA believes the recommendations could go further, ANPHA’s report supports the AMA’s calls for urgent reform and represents a step in the tight direction towards protecting our young people,” Dr Hambleton said.

In 2012, the AMA published a report detailing how alcohol companies were using a wide range of techniques, including promotions through social media, to market their products to young people and recommended tighter regulations on alcohol marketing.

“We need a National Summit on alcohol misuse to ensure we get a comprehensive strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm, of which the exposure of children to alcohol marketing is but one part,” the AMA President said.

The AMA will present its views in a submission to ANPHA as it prepares its final report.

The Alcohol Advertising: The effectiveness of current regulatory codes in addressing community concern draft report can be viewed at

24 February 2014
CONTACT:        Kirsty Waterford                02 6270 5464 / 0427 209 753

Published: 24 Feb 2014