Multiple fouls called on false claims against alcohol ads
10 April 2019
ASSERTIONS in media reports today about alcohol advertising, sports sponsorship and youth drinking in Australia are demonstrably wrong.
Australia’s major brewers pride themselves on responsible marketing and strict adherence to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC), which stipulates no alcohol ads can be aired during programming with less than 75% adult viewership.
Australian Government data shows that youth alcohol consumption is declining. This includes:
- 82% of 12-17 year-olds in Australia do not drink alcohol at all. That’s improved from 54% in 2004;
- The average age at which Australians are having their first drink has increased from 14.7 years in 2004 to 16.1 years; and
- 1.3% minors drinking at lifetime risk patterns in 2016 compared to 6.4% in 2004.
This is set against a backdrop of declining alcohol consumption more generally. Australian Bureau of Statistics data records a steady decline since the 1970s with the most recent data showing alcohol consumption per capita is at a 55-year low.
The fully sourced facts in relation to claims made today follow:
AFL and NRL viewership targets kids
OzTAM – Australia’s official source of television audience measurement – reveals that those aged 18+ account for the vast majority of sport viewers, including the 2018 AFL and NRL seasons where 92% and 91%, respectively, of viewers are adults.
You cannot, with any credibility, claim that sports broadcasts or the ads run during them target kids when less than 10% of viewers are under 18.
Alcohol advertising equates to underage drinking
Over the last 40 years alcohol advertising has increased in volume and expanded its reach, especially in the last 10-15 years through digital and online media. Yet (as the Table above shows), every Australian Government indicator over the same period shows underage drinking improving markedly.
If the claim were true, the trends in underage drinking would be going up. Instead, they are falling.
Independent Australian and international research shows alcohol advertising is not a catalyst for youth attitudes to alcohol, drinking behaviour or uptake. Parents, family and peers are by far the principal influences.
In 2014, Australian researchers (citation below) concluded that the predictors of frequent alcohol consumption among adolescents included having a sibling or a friend who consumed alcohol; believing parents, friends and/or siblings approved of drinking; drinking behaviours of parents, friends and/or siblings.
- Source: Jones SC, Magee CA (2014),‘The Role of Family, Friends and Peers in Australian Adolescent’s Alcohol Consumption’, Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Australia, Drug and Alcohol Review 2014.
40% of Aussie kids binge drink
Australian Government data proves this assertion is wrong. Both on the lifetime and single occasion measures of binge drinking, the rates are 1.3% and 5.4%, respectively.
To be clear, that’s 1.3% and 5.4% too many, but the trends over time are clearly heading in the right direction and a far cry from the unfounded assertion of a 40% crisis.
What the official government data tells us is, despite exposure to alcohol advertising, Aussie kids are drinking alcohol in record low numbers, those that have tried alcohol are doing so later in life and they are drinking at lower levels than ever before.
Aussie teens should be congratulated and encouraged for this undeniable cultural improvement, not misrepresented in a sensationalist way as somehow out-of-control.
Alcohol leads to 6,000 deaths in Australia each year
In September 2018 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (cited below) reported that alcohol may have contributed to 4,186 deaths in 2017, noting this has been decreasing over time.
Again, no-one is trying to downplay the issue. It is serious. However, the reality is a long way from the 6,000 claimed today, which is clearly wrong and inflates the facts by more than 30%.
- Source: www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Media%20Release~Alcohol-induced%20deaths%20decreasing%20over%20time%20(Media%20Release)~6
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