Alcohol Advertising Regulation in Australia: 1460107


Alcohol is considered as one of the major causes of injury, illness, hospitalization and preventable deaths that costs the economy of Australia about $36.1 billion yearly. It has been established that there is direct link between alcohol and most types of diseases entailing stroke, road accidents, heart-related diseases, pancreatitis, some cancers and hypertension (Bestman, Thomas, Randle & Thomas, 2015). Moreover, consumption of alcohol is attributed for 3.3 percent of the overall burden of injury and disease in the country, mortalities of 3430 yearly, as well as loss of 85500 disability adjusted life annually. It is approximated that cancer cases of about 5070 (5.1 percent of all the cancer cases) can be linked to chronic consumption of alcohol in the country. Additionally, it is approximated that 23 percent of cases of breast cancer in the country can be attributed to consumption of alcohol. In spite of the seriousness of these health risks of alcohol consumption, there are a host of Australians who are not completely aware of the dangers linked with use of alcohol. For instance, a report of 2011 AER Foundation yearly poll on alcohol found that only a few individuals in the country were aware that consumption of alcohol is linked to throat and mouth cancer while few individuals were cognizant of the relationship between breast cancer and alcohol use (Pettigrew et al., 2014).

To prevent health risks that are associated with the consumption of alcohol, Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in 2009 came up with the review of policy and law for food labelling. in response to the review of 2009, in 2011, the governance and legislative forum on food regulation announce their intention to offer alcohol firms with a period of two years to adopt voluntary programs to place warning health labels on alcohol products prior to modifying such a change (Reeve, 2018). This paper will critically discuss the merits and demerits of voluntary industry self-regulation approach to offering health warnings for the public on alcohol containers. Moreover, the paper will discuss the involuntary approaches to public health regulations against voluntary approaches.

Voluntary Self-regulatory advertising of alcohol products

Advertising of alcohol in Australia is subject to the competition and consumer act of 2010 which contains the Australian consumer law that bans the deceptive and misleading conduct in commerce or trade entailing deceptive and misleading advertising (Consumer Affairs Correspondent, 2010). Moreover, advertising of alcohol is also subject to control under the state liquor act the control the retail and wholesale of alcohol as well as bad certain forms of marketing by entities which legal licenses such as wholesaler, pubs, restaurants and clubs. This entails marketing which are likely to uniquely appeal to the young population due to the use of design features likely to be attract them or that are likely to attract children for any reason whatsoever (Catherine, Jinhui & Tim, 2020). Communication and Media Authority in Australia regulates the broadcasting firms, imposes license conditions as well as undertakes any other control functions, entailing the determination of broadcast standards for firms having licenses. The Broadcasting Services Act created a framework for co-regulation in which broadcasting firm groups established codes of practice for their sector, that were then registered by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (Federal Trade Commission, 2014). It should be noted that commercial television industry is one of the codes that is applicable to all free to air TV programming and it creates a system for cataloging program commercials and materials as well as has space for scheduling of commercials and programs in the suitable cataloging zones. TV advertisers instead of broadcasters are anticipated to follow the self-regulatory codes in the Australian association off national advertisers as well as with Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme (ABAC) (Federal Trade Commission, 2014).

A key feature of advertising regulation in Australia is self-regulation by the industries. The Australian association of national advertisers manages the systems of industry’s self-regulation that entails a series of voluntary codes of conduct on marketing and advertising and these codes of conduct are applicable to all advertisers and media (Federal Trade Commission, 2014). The central piece of the system is the code of ethics of the Australian association of national advertisers that is cemented by four various codes which deal with particular areas of advertising entailing code of advertising as well as marketing communication to your people. The codes provides that marketing to young people must be for or be associated to alcohol consumption or products or link with the firms which supply alcohol. In light of these codes, firm bodies in the country have come up with media-specific or product-specific marketing codes that are applicable along the codes which are have stipulated by Australian association of national advertisers.

In other countries like In the United States of America, for instance, numerous of rules and regulations covering advertising and marketing of alcohol products are voluntary and self-regulatory on the federal states (Blackwell, Drax, Attwood, Munafò & Maynard, 2018). Different states can have specific regulations, nevertheless. Generally, most of the alcoholic advertisements and marketing regulations cover underage consumption of alcohol as well as advertisement of alcohol to the population who are deemed too young to consume it. Alcoholic product industries and the marketing companies usually agree to voluntary self-regulation standards or codes which are established to prevent or inhibit underage consumption based on content or placement (Noel, Lazzarini, Robaina, and Vendrame, 2016).

Underage consumption of alcohol beverages is very rife in Australia and other developed nations and therefore, alcohol marketing and advertising seek to provide solutions to this public health issue by not contributing to the said problem and issue. Voluntarily, advertising industry usually review demographic information prior to placing advertisements to try to make sure that seventy percent and above of the target audience is of a legal age of drinking. Moreover, according to ABAC scheme on voluntary self-regulation, physical marketing information and messages are prohibited from being placed near public playgrounds, learning institutions, churches as well as where there are numerous underage traffic, for example (Reeve, 2018).    

Mandatory regulation of alcohol advertising and marketing

Regulating and monitoring of alcohol products is considered as one of the difficult challenges in alcohol public regulations and policy (Cécile et al., 2018). It should be noted that advertising regulations have been adopted by World Health Organizations as one of the best buys for the policies of cost-effectiveness to control and prevent the dangerous consumption of alcohol as a risk factor for non-communicable diseases. In Australia, ABAC in its preamble stipulates that it is established to make sure that alcohol is advertised in a responsible and transparent way and that industries are fully committed to make sure that their advertising strategies are complying with the intent and spirit of the code (Dana, 2019). One of the objective of the objective of the scheme is to reduce and ban exposure of alcohol marketing and adverting to the young people. Moreover, the government of Australia adheres to one of the globe firm regulatory code which covers advertising entailing sponsorships and social media (Linda, Natalie & Florentine, 2018). It should be noted that under the mandatory advertising regulations, Australian alcohol marketing meets the public’s expectation. Additionally, the advertising bureau states that marketing of alcohol products accounts for only 1.5 percent of all marketing complaints.

The mandatory regulations which restricts industries from abusing the advertising rules is about changing and transforming the manner in which Australians think about alcohol products as well as drinking. Section three of the ABAC stipulates the standard to be used in alcohol marketing, entailing those which are linked to the moderate as well as responsible portrayal of alcohol appropriate depiction of the impacts of alcohol, responsibility towards minors which is described as an individual under the age of eighteen years (Reeve, 2018). In the same code, section three (b) bans alcohol advertisement which has evident or firm appeal to the underage, depiction of an individual who is or looks to be a minor, or of adult who is below twenty five years of age. The mandatory code also bans alcohol marketing which is directed at underage via a breach of the regulations and rules. However, it should be noted that the effect of the standard on marketing’s appeal to the young people has been affected by the fact that code of conduct did not regulate alcohol placement promotions until 2017 (Reeve, 2018). Therefore, publication and broadcast of alcohol marketing in the media having higher percentage of young people did not go against the ABAC rules and regulations. Questionably, it undermines the restriction values on marketing content which has firm or evident appeal to the underage the young people or children are still subjected to a vast amount of alcohol marketing, entailing in media which is succinctly directed to the underage (Hawkins & Holden, 2014).

Benefits of voluntary self-regulation of alcohol products

Efficient and effective self-regulation on alcohol is administered in a transparent and fair fashion by an accountable independent body.  Regularly firm associations integrate an administrative committee into prevailing infrastructure. Members of the public who feel that the industries are not following the laid down rules submit their complaints to the advertising standard bureau which consequently forwards the complaints to alcohol beverages advertising code for evaluation against alcohol marketing code. It should be noted that alcohol beverages advertising code is fully funded by the Australian brewers association, Australian distilled spirits industry council as well as the Australian winemaker’s federation. Voluntary, self-regulated marketing codes have been established by numerous types of organizations. for instance, some professional marketing firms usually apply standards of practice which restrict or ban misleading or false testimonials and information which do not mirror the real-world views, misappropriate information on prices, claims which are not supported by science as well as suggestions and statements or images which would otherwise be regarded to be offensive to public decency. Moreover, alcohol companies can also follow alcohol-specific codes of marketing. In the country, the alcohol beverages advertising code has suggestions regarding naming and packaging of a product, content of the internet, billboard, television, company’s selling point, cinema and advertisements on radio. It should be noted that in the country, the outdoor media association as well as free TV regulate marketing placement.

In other countries like Japan, South Africa, Ireland, Ghana, as well as the United Kingdom they have the similar alcohol codes of advertisement which were established by alcohol organization-sponsored corporate social responsibility (Catherine, Jinhui & Tim, 2020). In Australia, voluntary self-regulated advertisement codes for alcohol have content and exposure guidelines. For instance, guidelines on exposure characteristically specify that no advertisement on alcohol should be displayed or broadcasted to a population in which the percent of the young people exceeds 30% even though reduced threshold do exist.

Disadvantages of self-regulation

Are voluntary self-regulation advertising and marketing effective? Different empirical researches state that they are not effective and that they have greatly failed in thwarting exposure of alcohol advertising to the young people and their harmful content (Miller, Ramsey, Baratiny and Olver, 2016). Via various systematic reviews, experts and professionals have used more than hundred literature from various nations which evaluate how effective voluntary self-regulation advertising are in limiting harmful content, minimizing young people exposure, as well as resolving complaints concerning alcohol advertising practices. Numerous cases of violations have been reported in an array of media, and even though some nations like Australia have come up with industry-controlled complaint teams, assessments show that they are fully effective for removing or thwarting noncompliant marketing.

Under the self-regulation advertising, the industries and firms chart their own advertising codes and there are strict consequences in case these industries violates such codes. As you know it is very hard to police yourself. It is time the government of Australia to introduce third party regulators to execute as well as police sensible protective controls which will reduce advertising to the young population as well as to police overconsumption of the alcohol products.

The self-regulatory advertising and marketing enable overexposure of young people to alcohol and misleading health claims, images and messages like sexually objectification of women and alcohol relationship with the control of weight. Social media platforms such as Facebook reach several consumers relative to radio and television. These media platforms provide big alcohol industries the ability to reach to several smartphone users with the advertisements provided twice as quickly as well as user-generated contents like videos. Without proper mandatory control of advertising and marketing, it is these type of user-generated contents which are have been worrying researchers and public health professionals like the team in Australia which presently expressed their concern regarding how industries feed the culture of overconsumption of alcohol in the country. In the meantime, media platforms like Facebook are happy to cash in, establishing policies and regulations which pander to alcohol industries as well as encourage consumption of alcohol via unchecked and misleading promotion.

Moreover, many alcohol firms have claimed that their marketing self-regulation initiatives protect young population from viewing and getting into contact with their advertisements and do not impact on their excessive underage drinking (Benjamin & Jim, 2019). Additionally, they continue to assert that fiends and families of these young population influence them to experiment and try relative to their advertising does. However, it has been established that under the self-regulation advertising of alcohol products in Australia, underage young people are exposed to as well as engaged by the marketers of alcohol. Moreover, advertising and marketing influence initiation of drinking and transitions to hazardous drinking (Hall et al., 2017).         

Alcohol industries and marketers use an array of media channels to market their products, entailing media in which the youth are regularly exposed (Sama & Hiilamo, 2019). The youth in the country have reported seeing alcohol promotion in radio, social media, television, public transport, in print publications and at events. Empirical evidence reveals that the youth find alcohol marketing appealing as well as their exposure to the promotion of alcohol is linked to early initiation of alcohol consumption and dangerous drinking. The World Health Organization suggested various statutory controls like self-regulatory warning by industries on the volume, content and placement of alcohol advertisement within a multidimensional approach to minimize harm from alcohol consumption especially by the young people (Hadfield & Measham, 2015). However, several nations, including Australia, are relying on voluntary industry-managed regulatory controls. Various public health professionals have aired their concerns about the efficacy and effectiveness of the these approaches

Sell-regulations have been reviewed on several times by the government under the alcohol beverages advertising code scheme, numerous of which have resulted in improvements of the code (Osiowy, Stockwell, Zhao, Thompson and Moore, 2015). Nevertheless, the industry responses to these reviews have not been comprehensive, systematic and transparent. Thus, many organizations still use advertising information and messages that target young people and even pregnant women (Rosenberg et al., 2017).


Consumption of alcohol poses serious risks to the people, particularly young people and children, as well as those who are less than eighteen years of age and in which drinking is deemed not appropriate for them (Portman Group, 2017). To reduce the negative impacts of consumption of alcohol in Australia, the government established various codes which were either voluntary or mandatory regulation of alcohol advertisement. There are various benefits of voluntary self-regulation on marketing and advertisement of alcohol. However, there are also numerous demerits which researchers have stated that are doing more harm than good to our population especially the minors. Mandatory regulation on advertisement of alcohol beverages is seen as a cure to the self-regulation mechanism by the alcohol companies. All the regulations are vital depending on the context in which they are applied.


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