Background and aims The 2011 UN Summit on Non-Communicable Disease failed to call for global action on alcohol marketing despite calls in the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Action Plan on Non-Communicable Diseases 2013-20 to restrict or ban alcohol advertising. In this paper we ask what it might take to match the global approach to tobacco enshrined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and suggest that public health advocates can learn from the development of the FCTC and the Code of Marketing on infant formula milks and the recent recommendations on restricting food marketing to children.
Methods Narrative review of qualitative accounts of the processes that created and monitor existing codes and treaties to restrict the marketing of consumer products, specifically breast milk substitutes, unhealthy foods and tobacco.
Findings The development of treaties and codes for market restrictions include: (i) evidence of a public health crisis; (ii) the cost of inaction; (iii) civil society advocacy; (iv) the building of capacity; (v) the management of conflicting interests in policy development; and (vi) the need to consider monitoring and accountability to ensure compliance.
Conclusion International public health treaties and codes provide an umbrella under which national governments can strengthen their own legislation, assisted by technical support from international agencies and non-governmental organizations. Three examples of international agreements, those for breast milk substitutes, unhealthy foods and tobacco, can provide lessons for the public health community to make progress on alcohol controls. Lessons include stronger alliances of advocates and health professionals and better tools and capacity to monitor and report current marketing practices and trends.