STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) – A new study by public health experts from around the world, including UConn, says regulations on alcohol advertising should be tightened worldwide to better protect children.
The call comes along with a series of reports in a special issue of the scientific journal “Addiction”, presenting the latest evidence on the impact of alcohol marketing and its impact on children.
“Governments are responsible for the health of their citizens,” says Thomas Babor, the journal’s lead editor and professor and Health Net Inc. Endowed Chair in Community Medicine and Public Health at the UConn School of Medicine. “No other legal product with such potential for harm is as widely promoted and advertised in the world as alcohol.”
The study found that children around the world are exposed to extensive alcohol marketing, and that current controls are ineffective in blocking youth exposure to those ads and drinking.
According to Chris Brookes of the UK Health Forum, where the research study project originated following efforts to bring the alcohol policy leads of the European Union and United States together, “Governments have previously approved self-regulatory measures on alcohol advertising; however, we can no longer say that they might work to protect our young people – they don’t. In a literature review of more than 100 studies, none was identified that supported the effectiveness of industry self-regulation programs.”
The researchers offer governments the following guidelines for the development of more effective alcohol marketing regulations:
The most effective response to alcohol marketing is likely to be a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, in accordance with each country’s constitution or constitutional principles.
Regulations should be statutory, and enforced by an appropriate public health agency of the local or national government, not by the alcohol industry.
Regulations should be independent of the alcohol industry, whose primary interest lies in growing its markets and maximizing profits.
A global agreement on the marketing of alcoholic beverages would support country efforts to move towards a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
Collaboration with other population-level efforts to restrict marketing of potentially harmful products, such as ultra-processed food, sugary beverages, tobacco, and breast-milk substitutes, should be encouraged and supported.