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WHO highlights glaring gaps in regulation of alcohol marketing across borders

WHO highlights glaring gaps in regulation of alcohol marketing across borders

Young people and heavy drinkers major targets

10 May 2022- A new report from the World Health Organization highlights the increasing use of sophisticated online marketing techniques for alcohol and the need for more effective regulation. This report shows that heavy drinkers and young people are being targeted more often by online alcohol marketing, sometimes to their detriment.

Reducing the harm from alcohol – by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion is the first report from WHO to detail the full extent of the way that alcohol is today being marketed across national borders – often by digital means – and in many cases regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment in receiving countries.

Worldwide, 3 million people die each year as a result of harmful use of alcohol – one every 10 seconds – representing about 5% of all deaths. A disproportionate number of these alcohol–related deaths occur among younger people, with 13.5% of all deaths among those who are 20-39 years of age being alcohol-related.

“Alcohol is a poison that robs youth, families, and society of their potential and lives,” stated Dr Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus (Director-General, World Health Organization). “Despite the obvious risks for health, alcohol marketing controls are weaker than those of other psychoactive substances. A better, more stringent and consistent regulatory system for alcohol marketing could save lives and help improve the quality of life for young people around the globe .”

A digital revolution in promotion and marketing

One of the most significant changes to the alcohol marketing industry in recent years has been the introduction of online marketing. Online marketing has opened up new opportunities for marketers who want to reach specific audiences across borders. Global Internet service providers have been collecting and analysing data about users’ preferences and habits. Social media advertising is particularly effective in targeting such users, thanks to the influence of social media users and the sharing of posts among them.

One data source quoted in the report calculated that over 70% of media spending of leading alcohol marketers based in the USA in 2019 was through promotions, product placement and online advertisements in social media.

” The increasing importance of digital media has meant that alcohol marketing is becoming increasingly trans-border,” said Dag Rekve, of the Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours Unit of the World Health Organization. This makes it harder for countries to regulate alcohol marketing in their respective jurisdictions. .”

This area requires more collaboration

Sponsorship for sporting events

Sponsorship at major sporting events on a global, regional, and national level is another strategy that transnational alcohol businesses use (which have a growing influence in the production and marketing of alcohol beverages). Sponsorship can increase brand awareness to new markets. To reach potential customers and viewers in various parts of the globe, alcohol producers also partner with clubs and leagues.

Sponsoring events is a great way to increase your brand’s visibility and sales internationally. Product placement is also possible in serials and movies, which many times are available on subscription networks around the world. According to an analysis of the 100 highest-grossing box office U.S. movies between 1996 and 2015, branded alcohol was shown in almost half of them.

A focus on marketing specific audiences

The lack of regulations to regulate cross-border alcohol marketing is a concern especially for adolescents and women as well as heavy drinkers.

Studies show that drinking alcohol from a young age can lead to dangerous drinking later in life. Teenagers are also more susceptible to alcohol-related harm than those who have been drinking for a while. Particular attention is being paid to areas of the globe with growing and young populations such as Africa, Latin America and Latin America.

Alcohol consumption by women is a key growth area for sales and production. Alcohol marketers see women’s drinking of alcohol as an opportunity to expand their market. They often portray women’s drinking as an indicator of equality and empowerment. To promote alcohol brands, they organize social responsibility programs for companies on subjects such as domestic violence and breast cancer.

Heavy and dependent drinkers are another target for marketing efforts, since in many countries just 20% of current drinkers drink well over half of all alcohol consumed. People who are alcohol dependent often report feeling a greater urge to consume alcohol when they’re presented with alcohol-related cues. However, these people rarely have a way to prevent their exposure to advertising and promotions.

The Existing regulations are primarily restricted to specific states

Although many countries do have restrictions regarding alcohol marketing, they are generally weak. In a WHO 2018 study, it was found that, while most countries have some form of regulation for alcohol marketing in traditional media, almost half have no regulation in place for Internet (48%) and social media (47%) marketing of alcohol.

Staying focused on the prevention of global tobacco exposure and use, together with the work of the WHO, national governments and the WHO public health community, have led to significant reductions in the worldwide tobacco consumption and its promotion.

International collaboration required

The report states that all national governments must implement comprehensive prohibitions or bans on alcohol marketing. This includes its cross-border aspect. The report highlights the key elements and possible options to regulate cross-border alcohol marketing and emphasizes the importance of strong cooperation between the states.

Note to editors:

Alcoholism is linked to a variety of health issues, such as alcohol dependence, major non-communicable diseases, such as liver disease, and certain cancers, and fatalities from road accidents and violence.


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