01 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption is influenced by a complex causal system of interconnected psychological, behavioural, social, economic, legal and environmental factors. These factors are shaped by governments (eg, licensing laws and taxation), by consumers (eg, patterns of alcohol consumption drive demand) and by alcohol industry practices, such as advertising. The marketing and advertising of alcoholic products contributes to an 'alcogenic environment' and is a modifiable influence on alcohol consumption and harm. The public health perspective is that there is sufficient evidence that alcohol advertising influences consumption. The alcohol industry disputes this, asserting that advertising only aims to help consumers choose between brands.

METHODS: We review the evidence from recent systematic reviews, including their theoretical and methodological assumptions, to help understand what conclusions can be drawn about the relationships between alcohol advertising, advertising restrictions and alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: A wide evidence base needs to be drawn on to provide a system-level overview of the relationship between alcohol advertising, advertising restrictions and consumption. Advertising aims to influence not just consumption, but also to influence awareness, attitudes and social norms; this is because advertising is a system-level intervention with multiple objectives. Given this, assessments of the effects of advertising restrictions which focus only on sales or consumption are insufficient and may be misleading. For this reason, previous systematic reviews, such as the 2014 Cochrane review on advertising restrictions (Siegfried et al) contribute important, but incomplete representations of 'the evidence' needed to inform the public health case for policy decisions on alcohol advertising. We conclude that an unintended consequence of narrow, linear framings of complex system-level issues is that they can produce misleading answers. Systems problems require systems perspectives.

01 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

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.

15 December 2016 In Social and Cultural Aspects

This paper reviews the evidence for the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policies to reduce alcohol-related harm. Policies focus on price, marketing, availability, information and education, the drinking environment, drink-driving, and brief interventions and treatment. Although there is variability in research design and measured outcomes, evidence supports the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of policies that address affordability and marketing. An adequate reduction in temporal availability, particularly late night on-sale availability, is effective and cost-effective. Individually-directed interventions delivered to at-risk drinkers and enforced legislative measures are also effective. Providing information and education increases awareness, but is not sufficient to produce long-lasting changes in behaviour. At best, interventions enacted in and around the drinking environment lead to small reductions in acute alcohol-related harm. Overall, there is a rich evidence base to support the decisions of policy makers in implementing the most effective and cost-effective policies to reduce alcohol-related harm.

15 December 2016 In Drinking & Eating Patterns

AIM: To systematically review evidence on the influence of specific marketing components (Price, Promotion, Product attributes and Place of sale/availability) on key drinking outcomes (initiation, continuation, frequency and intensity) in young people aged 9-17.

METHODS: MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS, PsychINFO, CINAHL and ProQuest were searched from inception to July 2015, supplemented with searches of Google Scholar, hand searches of key journals and backward and forward citation searches of reference lists of identified papers.

RESULTS: Forty-eight papers covering 35 unique studies met inclusion criteria. Authors tended to report that greater exposure to alcohol marketing impacted on drinking initiation, continuation, frequency and intensity during adolescence. Nevertheless, 23 (66%) studies reported null results or negative associations, often in combination with positive associations, resulting in mixed findings within and across studies. Heterogeneity in study design, content and outcomes prevented estimation of effect sizes or exploration of variation between countries or age subgroups. The strength of the evidence base differed according to type of marketing exposure and drinking outcome studied, with support for an association between alcohol promotion (mainly advertising) and drinking outcomes in adolescence, whilst only two studies examined the relationship between alcohol price and the drinking behaviour of those under the age of 18.

CONCLUSION: Despite the volume of work, evidence is inconclusive in all four areas of marketing but strongest for promotional activity. Future research with standardized measures is needed to build on this work and better inform interventions and policy responses.

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