HANNAH PIERCE & MADDIE DAY. State and territory governments are taking on alcohol marketing

NSW and Tasmania are lagging behind the other states and territories in restricting outdoor alcohol advertising but no jurisdiction is taking action to restrict alcohol advertising in sports stadiums.

“Kids shouldn’t be encouraged to drink on the way to class every day – that’s why we’re banning alcohol advertising near schools.” These were the words of Victorian Gaming and Liquor Regulation Minister Marlene Kairouz in March 2018 when she announced alcohol ads would be banned within 150m of all Victorian schools.

We heard similar sentiments from Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook in June 2018 when he announced alcohol ads would be removed from buses, trains and train stations in WA: “I am delighted this important ban has come into effect… Many young people use public transport and we need to reinforce the message that excessive alcohol consumption is dangerous.”

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of state and territory governments announce restrictions on alcohol marketing. It appears the dominos are slowly falling – so much so that it has become difficult to keep track of which jurisdiction has announced what restrictions, and whether they were successful in implementing them.

Given all this activity, the Alcohol Programs Team at the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education decided to find out exactly what the situation is when it comes to restrictions on outdoor alcohol advertising in Australia. We inquired with relevant ministerial offices, government departments and non-government organisations in every jurisdiction to better understand what action has been taken. Our latest report, Outdoor alcohol advertising in Australia: Snapshot of the current state of play, highlights that a number of state and territory governments have been busy addressing alcohol marketing.

The ACT, Northern Territory, South Australian, Victorian, and Western Australian Governments have all introduced some sort of controls on outdoor alcohol advertising. These mostly restrict alcohol ads on public transport vehicles, and have largely been administered through government policies applied through contract variations.

The Queensland Government has announced plans to restrict alcohol advertising on all government-owned infrastructure. If introduced, it will be the state with the most comprehensive restrictions on outdoor alcohol advertising in Australia.

New South Wales and Tasmania were the only jurisdictions where no restrictions on outdoor advertising were identified.

Our review is timely given the Federal Government has recently released the National Alcohol Strategy 2019-2028. It was great to see the Strategy recognise the significant body of evidence demonstrating that alcohol advertising impacts on young people. What we are less enthusiastic about is the lack of direction the Strategy provides governments. While “Implement measures to reduce alcohol advertising exposure to young people (including online and sporting events)” is listed as a policy option with ‘Shared Responsibility’ between all levels of government, it is not clear in the Strategy what the next steps should be for those governments wanting to take action.

One area where strong leadership is needed is alcohol sponsorship of sport. Our review highlighted that no jurisdictions in Australia have introduced restrictions on alcohol marketing in sports stadiums. There has been a complete lack of movement from the Australian Government, despite sponsorship being a regulatory black hole. The industry’s self-regulatory system specifically states it doesn’t cover sponsorship, and has been dismissing community concerns about alcohol sponsorship of sport for years. This is hardly surprising given the substantial conflicts of interest at play when the alcohol industry is permitted to regulate the marketing that helps reap eye-watering profits. The time has now come for all governments to prioritise the removal of alcohol sponsors in sport.

It is evident from our review of outdoor alcohol advertising that despite fierce opposition from the alcohol and advertising industries, state and territory governments are pulling their weight when it comes to regulating alcohol marketing. Given our new national strategy lists alcohol marketing regulation as a ‘shared responsibility’, it is time for the Australian Government to support our states and territories. It is time for the Australian Government to stop the current system of industry self-regulation, and work with the states and territories to introduce legislation removing alcohol advertising from all places where children and young people are exposed.

Maddie Day is a public health advocate and Senior Policy Officer at the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE). Hannah Pierce is a Senior Research Officer with the Alcohol Programs Team at the Public Health Advocacy Institute of WA, Curtin University.

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1 Response to HANNAH PIERCE & MADDIE DAY. State and territory governments are taking on alcohol marketing

  1. Allan Kessing says:

    When governments, and political parties, become dependent on revenue from specific, commercial entities (taxes for governments, donations to parties & individuals, or the media – cash for comment springs to mind) it behooves us, as the People, to ask whether this is ethical.
    The appalling level of influence which the alcohol & gambling interests have on government, which supposedly regulate them, is a stranglehold.
    The Common Weal, the public benefit, doesn’t register despite the damage done being left to government, and charities, to try to repair.

    One might mention other industries – oil, mining, agribiz et al – but there is a precedent for dealing with the imbalance.
    Once the tobacco purveyors could threaten that sport would collapse without the advertising revenue.
    Last time I looked there was plenty of it around, despite oafish efforts like SportsRort, to make electors as complicit as government of filthy lucre – shut up and enjoy, or else!

    A favourite maxim of the Right – something is taxed there will be less of it – seems to have worked in the case of tobacco.
    This principle should be applied to alcohol & gambling – set high & linked to the RPI x 2 would be a good start – and then move on to the road lobby.
    Some cynics say that the main reason for the failure to support electric vehicles is that the powers-that-be (by which I do NOT mean government) haven’t yet figured out how to make a big enough quid from them.

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