He was responding to the publication today (Tuesday 7 February 2012) of a report by the Dept of Health which called for an extensive range of prohibitions and restrictions on the advertising of alcohol products. The report was the outcome of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Group which has been chaired by the Dept of Health.
Mr McDonald said that misuse of alcohol and the issue of under-age drinking are rightly matters of concern to society in general and that the alcohol industry shares this concern, and would support practical measures on these matters. “It is vital to clearly assess the causes of the problems and who they affect and then to target suitable actions to deal with the problems, but a blanket approach that includes banning advertising won’t achieve the needed results. The experience of bans and prohibitions in other countries says that bans don’t work”.
Noting that the report calls for statutory legislation to control or restrict alcohol advertising as a means of reducing alcohol misuse and under-age drinking, Mr McDonald said “The terms of the Review Group included the commitment that its outcomes would be evidence-based. But the report does not do this. It quotes a small number of studies as evidence but ignores the huge body of research which shows contrary evidence. It is essential that proposals for new policy development in any activity should be evidence-based, and that it should address the issues at the heart of the problem or issue. No evidence that advertising causes alcohol misuse or under-age drinking or increases the sale of alcohol is presented. In fact, there is much evidence to say that the greatest influences on under-age drinking come from young peoples’ peers and parents and their general environment. It is worth noting in this regard that with little advertising behind it, wine sales have increased very substantially over recent years while beer, which accounts for the largest proportion of advertising, has actually seen its proportion of the market decline. That clearly suggests that advertising is not necessarily, not uniquely or even the major driver”.
Mr McDonald noted that there is in fact very extensive regulation of alcohol advertising in Ireland, with a wide array of Codes of Practice which require very careful compliance by alcohol companies. He pointed out “Over the past decade, out of the total amount spent on all advertising, alcohol advertising has been less than 5% of the total advertising spend in each year, and all of this is subject to very close scrutiny under the Codes of practice in force” and noted that Mr Peter Cassels, Chairman of the Dept of Health appointed Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body, speaking to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children on this subject last November 17th, said “In general there is compliance and the rate of compliance has improved significantly to the extent that most of the areas are now compliant and this has reduced the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising”.
Mr McDonald also noted that the alcohol industry is a very substantial contributor to Irish society through jobs and investment and to other sectors of the economy such as the agri sector through the provision of necessary ingredients, and to export success.
“Marketing is essential for the life of any business, and it is an extremely difficult and intense task. It doesn’t just happen. It has to be worked at. Successful marketing is fundamental to our need for jobs; without the successful marketing the jobs wouldn’t exist or survive”, he concluded.
For further information, contact Ed McDonald at the Association of Advertisers in Ireland, tel 01 – 6373950 or e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org