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Summer without alcohol is so much fun. No one will forget about their friends the day after! But have you thought about the publicity campaigns for alcoholic beverages?
Now bear with me/ A new study confirms the connection between alcoholic beverages’ promotion and drinking during adolescence. A study concludes that: ‘the exposition to several types of alcohol commercialisation, is associated both to quantity as well as consumption frequency between teenagers in Europe.’
These results support the demand for legal restrictions regarding the amount of alcoholic beverages’ advertising campaigns in the European Union, where the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) is the only EU regulation currently operative.
The AVMSD regulates alcohol’s commercialisation content in the audiovisual media, yet does not restrict the quantity of campaigns of alcohol commercialisation in televisions or other advertising media.
The study includes more than 9.000 adolescents in Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Poland. The average age was 14 years. Students spoke about the frequency in which they drink, about the excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as their exposure to a wide range of alcohol commercialisation campaigns, including television ads, online marketing, sport events’ sponsors, musical events or festivals, free advertising samples and exposure to offers and promotional prices.
The data shows that the exposure to alcoholic beverages’ advertising campaigns of all sorts was positively associated with the use of alcohol by adolescents over time. This interconnection was found in four countries with different cultural, regulating and drinking contexts.
Sadly, there is yet to be a cause-effect connection strong enough to force a legislation change. But the results are clearly a cause of concern. It is, at least primordial, to face this reality.
Avalon de Brujin from the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) states that: ‘Europe is the world’s heavies region’. He also says that youth drinking is particularly problematic in the Continent.
This recent study, which was presented to the press, highlights the necessity to drastically restrict the amount of alcoholic drinks advertising campaigns which youngsters are exposed in their daily lives. He also adds that it is not just a question of restricting television ads anymore.
Politicians must re-evaluate in a scathing and exhaustive way the whole ‘alcohol’s industry marketing scheme’ – for it is indeed a scheme, full of lobbies and little transparency and an evident indifference towards public health and especially youngsters.
New regulations must be developed in order to reduce all kinds of campaigns to this legal drug, otherwise in a few years all of us will be confronted with the unbelievable negligence. No one intends to be ‘holier than thou’, nor to start a graceless prohibition where everyone is forced not to drink and ads would be totally abolished.
What is in fact urgent is to have a bigger awareness of the real and perverse effects that these campaigns can generate. We cannot keep ‘washing our hands off’ in order to sell beers like no tomorrow, by for example keep associating it with the noble concept of friendship. That is, if on one hand brands refute this negative influence on youngsters and others. On the other hand, they cannot refute any influence at all. Hence why they are being paid and that is why, technically, campaigns are produced and answered to briefings.
Any sort of ingenuity here is indefensible. As for adults, once again the friendship association arises: This time older, sometimes by the format of ‘eternal youngsters’, ever-adventurous, who place themselves on boats and roam towards islands fully packed with pallets of whiskey bottles, or curled up in their blankets, in the comfort of their homes, ever with an aura of someone who is happy and in good company.
Believe it or not, alcohol does provide company indeed. Not friends. In practice what is underlined is that without this substance (is this designation ‘holier’?), the ‘ice cannot be broken’. You are not naturally happy with other people. You do not have any friends. No one is having fun. The worst part is that as time goes by and with all the consumption this can indeed become true.
And who will be responsible when the time comes? No one can claim that this cause-effect it is not true anymore, or excuse himself with ignorance: the facts are there.
Ana Pinto-Coelho is an addiction counsellor from Portugal.
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