Doctors want tighter restrictions on alcohol advertising

AlcoholWith the peak age for the onset of alcohol use disorders being only 18 years of age, doctors are calling for greater regulation of alcohol advertising to prevent alcohol companies targeting young people.

Senior Fellows representing the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), will today give evidence before the NSW inquiry on the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill.

“Young people who are exposed to alcohol advertising consume alcohol earlier and consume more alcohol,” Consultant Paediatrician Professor Elizabeth Elliott explains.

“Alcohol affects the development of a teenager’s brain, which doesn’t reach maturity until around 25 years of age. A young, developing brain is vulnerable and the potential brain damage that alcohol can cause is long-term and irreversible.”

Alcohol use in young people is linked to higher risk of serious injuries and even death. Indeed, globally alcohol is the biggest risk factor for death for men aged 14–49.

The RACP supports legislative measures to ban alcohol advertising at sporting events and to start phasing out alcohol sponsorship from competitions and teams across all sporting codes. In its submission, the RACP argues that the NSW Government can directly influence outdoor advertising which uses government property – this includes advertising on buses, trains, bus shelters, train stations and sports stadiums.

RACP President, Dr Catherine Yelland said the harms caused by alcohol are entirely preventable and it’s up to the Commonwealth Government, along with all states and territories, to do more to regulate the industry.

“Alcohol companies are unapologetic about their advertising methods so we simply cannot rely on the industry to self-regulate – as a strategy, self-regulation has failed,” Dr Yelland said.

“It’s up to government to do a lot more to restrict alcohol advertising in places where young people are likely to see it.”

In NSW alone, the NSW Auditor General estimated the cost of alcohol abuse at $3.9 billion per year, or $1,565 per household. Of this amount, $1 billion a year or $416 per household is incurred in the form of spending on additional government services to address the negative ‘spillover effects’ of alcohol  consumption, such as increased crime and morbidity.

The RACP submission: NSW Inquiry into Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Prohibition Bill ACP’s submission (PDF 0.7MB) draws extensively from the evidence discussed and cited in its 2016 Alcohol Policy, developed jointly with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). 
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