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New Zealand policymakers look at the big picture on alcohol marketing

A Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship reviewed the issue of alcohol advertising and sponsorship in New Zealand in 2014. The inquiry was conducted by a number of government ministers supported by public servants from the Health Ministry, the Department of Justice and the Health Promotion Agency, a non-government organization.

The Ministerial Forum reviewed the research literature and took account of the views of stakeholders, the public, and experts.

At the time the trend in per capita drinking in New Zealand was downward, with fewer teenagers aged 15-17 years drinking in 2011/12 compared to 2006/07 (down to 59% from 75%) and less drinking among adults (down to 61% from 84%).

The rates of hazardous drinking were also declining: among 18-24 year olds hazardous drinking declined to 37% in 2011/12, down from 49% in 2006/07. A similar change was recorded among teenagers: for 15-17 year olds the hazardous drinking rate fell to 14.6% in 2011/12 from 26.3% in 2006/07.

Naturally the alcohol industry argued that there was no need to change the way alcohol was promoted and cited the lower alcohol consumption figures to prove all was well, alcoholically, in New Zealand.

Interestingly the Ministerial Forum disagreed. Despite the improvements, it considered the rate of hazardous drinking is still too high as 20% of drinkers were at risk of harming themselves. In particular, the rates of youthful drinking and hazardous drinking by young people demands action.

After reviewing the extensive literature on the effect of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, the Forum noted its impact on young people. Research findings indicated that early and harmful drinking by young people was predicted by the following:  awareness of alcohol advertising; frequent exposure to alcohol advertising; involvement in alcohol marketing, such as wearing alcohol-branded clothing and merchandise; exposure to alcohol sponsorship of sporting events; and exposure to alcohol advertising within the community.


Regarding alcohol sponsorship the Forum recommended New Zealand

  • phase out all sponsorship of sport over the long term
  • ban alcohol sponsorship of streamed and broadcast sports
  • ban alcohol naming rights at venues
  • ban alcohol sponsorships of events where 10% of the audience is below 18 years
  • introduce a sponsorship replacement funding program.

In the case of alcohol advertising the Forum made the following recommendations

  • ban alcohol advertising during streamed and broadcast sports
  • ban alcohol advertising where 10% of the audience is below 18 years
  • restrict the hours in which alcohol advertising can occur
  • offset alcohol advertising with positive messages across all media forms.

Significantly the Forum adopted this position after recognizing the force of the alcohol industry’s typical counter arguments that most people drink responsibly, that many social and personal factors influences drinking, and it is hard to quantify the effect of alcohol marketing on consumption.

Nevertheless the Ministerial Forum concluded the compelling evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship increases early initiation to alcohol was sufficient to justify action.  In the words of the final report “protecting the young from alcohol related harm is paramount.”

Grogwatch looks forward to the day when Australian ministers are prepared to advocate the interests of young people before those of the alcohol industry.

In the meantime we should make sure all Australian politicians know the outcomes of the Ministerial Forum on alcohol advertising and sponsorship.


Source Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and sponsorship