Australia, like many other countries in the world, operates under a notion of a free market. Where demand and supply dominate, with little or no government control. However Government has to intervene to ensure the safety and wellness of its citizens, for example with safety standards and food standards etc.
Advertising is used to increase demand and therefore supply. Advertising is justified as a means of informing the consumer about the goods and services available in the market.
The earliest advertisements did just that. To our postmodern eye, early advertising looks simple and naïve. But advertising has gone far beyond informing, to a much more subtle, much more sophisticated art of persuasion. Advertising no longer aims to meet the consumer’s demand, but to create consumer demand. Advertising no longer informs us that a coat or a motor car is available for a certain price, should we be interested; now advertising asserts we are deficient if we don’t buy that coat and the motor car; we are out of date, not sexy, uncool, poor. Advertising exploits our fears and undermines our self-confidence.
The free marketeers would say that this is good for the economy. But at what cost to health?
The alcohol industry has many arguments as to why they don’t need any more regulation. They have set up advertising standards, established an education arm, ‘Drinkwise’, all in the name of “trust us, we are responsible”. They have numerous arguments as to why there should be no further regulation; interestingly these mirror those that were given by the tobacco industry, such as:
- Individuals should consume alcohol responsibly
- Regulation Infringes legal rights of the company
- Regulation is discriminatory
- Regulation will result in the loss of jobs.
A systematic review that was published last year in Addiction looked at the efforts the alcohol industry makes to influence marketing policy. They found that the alcohol industry’s arguments are based on the manipulation of evidence and “by promoting ineffective voluntary codes and non-regulatory initiatives”.
We have highlighted many times the copious evidence related to alcohol advertising; limit the amount of advertising and we will be able to reduce the harm. When the alcohol industry is confronted with the issue that underage young people are exposed to alcohol advertisements, their response is that they only market to adults and are opposed to minors using their product. Savell et al in the systematic review very clearly state that there are six pieces of evidence that contradicts this statement alone.
It is time to stop trusting the Alcohol Industry to self-regulate. Instead we should call for an end to self-regulation and ensure our children are not educated by the alcohol industry.
Remember: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” Mahatma Gandhi