Drink Tank

Saturation of alcohol advertising in State of Origin a disgrace

Tonight’s first State of Origin match signals the beginning of a series where young Australians will be unnecessarily exposed to mass alcohol advertising.

It is shameful that children continue to be exposed to harmful alcohol advertising, as families across the country tune their televisions to live sporting events like the State of Origin games.

Allowing our sporting heroes to be walking billboards for alcohol products during prime time viewing encourages children to start drinking at a younger age and at more harmful levels when they reach adulthood.

Alcohol advertising has never been as pervasive, as inventive, and as well-resourced as it is now.

Alcohol is too often promoted as a product to be enjoyed. A product that will make us feel happy. A product that will help us wind down after a busy week.

However, this perception of alcohol hides the real impact it is having on our society. This includes the alcohol-related violence in our streets and homes, right through to alcohol’s contribution to chronic disease and death.

This level of harm comes with a significant financial toll, with alcohol costing Australians more than $36 billion a year. Australia should not accept this huge toll and, for the sake of future generations, we cannot ignore it.

While the size of the problem is vast, alcohol harm is a preventable problem.

The Federal Election this July provides the people of Australia with an opportunity to ensure that their next government takes action to reduce alcohol harms.

The National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) has developed a 4-point plan outlining policy recommendations that are practical, achievable and based on the evidence of what works. NAAA hopes this incisive plan will convince politicians in the upcoming Federal Election to take action in reducing alcohol harms for the benefit of all Australians.

One of the four areas identified for immediate action this election is protecting children from alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

There is an urgent need for effective regulation that prioritises the health of young people, and supports public health efforts to change Australia’s harmful drinking culture.

The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice was reviewed earlier this year and continued to allow alcohol advertising before 8:30pm during live broadcasts of sporting events.

The Australian Government has continuously failed to end the unhealthy link between alcohol sponsorship and sport. And as a result, our children are exposed to an ever increasing rate of alcohol advertising.

A recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) shows 60 per cent of Australians believe alcohol sponsorship should be banned from sport and 70 per cent believe alcohol advertising should be banned on television before 8:30pm.

To date, commercial interests have been prioritised over expert advice and community concerns. It is time for the next Australian Government to step in and acknowledge the failure of self-regulation and the need for legislated controls.

A whole-of-system review that considers the effect of alcohol advertising on young people across all mediums is required, and the NAAA is calling for an immediate end to the Code of Practice loophole that allows alcohol advertising during sporting events before 8.30pm.

John Crozier

Dr John Crozier is co-chair of the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol (NAAA) Committee and Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Trauma Committee.


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