Frequently Asked Questions
- Does alcohol marketing influence young people
The relationship between alcohol marketing and alcohol consumption is too complex for a straightforward yes or no. The scientific debate is still heated. A majority of the research examines the effect of alcohol advertisement rather than the impact of alcohol marketing.
Most econometric studies provide little evidence of an effect of alcohol advertising (Hastings et al., 2005). These econometric studies generally examine the effects of sales of alcoholic beverages and advertising expenditures in a market. These econometric studies, however, tell us nothing about the effect of marketing on youngsters, since all conclusions are drawn at the population level.
Observational studies are used to study differences within a specific (age) group. It is examined whether a higher exposure to alcohol marketing (advertisement) increases the alcohol use in adolescents. Studies with a structural equation model sometimes find a reciprocal effect between exposure to alcohol advertisement and alcohol use. Heavy drinkers are often more aware of alcohol advertisements and appreciate these advertisement more. Consequently, it is important to examine the effects of alcohol marketing with longitudinal studies in which causality can be established (Smith & Foxcroft, 2007).
Longitudinal studies mainly conducted in New Zealand (eg Connolly et al., 1994; Casswell & Zhang, 1998) and the US (eg Collins et al., 2007; Ellickson et al. 2005, Fisher et al., 2007; Stacy et al., 2004) consistently suggest that exposure to alcohol advertisement is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink alcohol (Sargent et al., 2006; Fisher et al., 2007), and with increased drinking amongst baseline drinkers (Snyder et al., 2006; Stacy et al., 2004; ). Results show that effects of less traditional types of marketing practices are even more influential. A recent longitudinal study by Collins et al. (2007) shows that the effect of possessing a promotional item is larger than exposure to televised or printed alcohol advertisement. Alcohol use in movies is also found to be a predictor of prevalence and initiation of alcohol use (Sargent et al., 2006). A study with a cross-sectional design by McClure et al (2006) comes to similar conclusions. Hastings et al. (2005) argues that the effects found in these studies are possibly underestimating the true size of the effects since in reality alcohol advertisers use a combination of different marketing strategies.
Casswell, S. and Zhang J. F, (1998). Impact of liking for advertising nd brand allegiance on drinking and alcohol-related aggression: a longitudinal study. Addiction, 93(8),1209-17.
[link=http://www.stap.nl/eucam/home/collins_et_al._2007.html]Collins, R.L., Ellickson, P.L., McCaffrey, D. and K. Hambarsoomians 2007). Early Adolescent Exposure to Alcohol Advertising and its Relationship to Underage Drinking. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 527
- How is labelling regulated in Europe?
EU policy on health warnings on alcoholic products
DG Sanco, the Directorate General on Health and Consumer Protection of the European Commission state in their report on Labelling of February 2006 that Health warnings could be an effective mean to inform consumers of alcoholic beverages about risks associated with inappropriate consumption of alcohol. The report mentions no possible effects of introducing health warnings besides informing consumers.
The European Parliament rejected calls from its own Health Committee to introduce standardised EU-wide health warnings on alcoholic drinks in September 2007. Instead, MEPs asked the Commission to initiate "a comparative study on the impact and effectiveness of various information and communication means, including labelling and advertising, applied in member states" and to publish the results by 2010.
In January 2008 the European Parliament decided to approve with a proposal to improve the current situation concerning the listing of ingredients of premixed alcoholic beverages in an attempt to conciliate the consumers' needs for information with the specificities in the production of such products. According to the proposal, it will be mandatory to label a set of nutrients (energy, total fat, saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugars and salt) in the front of the package. There is a minimum font size of 3 mm for lettering on the labels, and mandatory back-of-the-pack guideline with the daily amounts (GDAs) estimating average requirements for energy for men and women aged between 19-50, of normal weight and fitness. Alcoholic drinks, except mixed products - qualified as alcopops - are currently excluded from the proposal. A Commission official referred to both the "complexity of production methods" and "political choice" as justification for allowing this derogation for wine, beer and spirits from the directive.
National policy on health warnings in European countries
Alcoholic drinks already carry a health warning for the protection of pregnant women in France since 2005. According to a report of DG Sanco the labelling measure proposed by the France government will be an obstacle to the free movement of goods, but the measure is said to justified and proportionate to protect public health and therefore in accordance with Article 30 of the Treaty.
After the rejection of integrating health warnings in the EU by the European Parliament, different Member States took initiative to introduce alcohol health warnings themselves.
The Finnish government took initiative as well to add alcohol warning labels. These will be mandatory in 2009. See for more information the news article derived from Join Together.
- What are the objectives of EUCAM?
EUCAM is set up to collect, exchange and to promote knowledge and experience about alcohol marketing throughout Europe. The knowledge partly results from ELSA, the European project that brought together NGOs and governmental officials in order to evaluate the existing regulations regarding alcohol marketing. The objectives of EUCAM are:
1. Promoting the Monitoring of Alcohol Marketing
EUCAM aims to create opportunities and to promote monitoring of alcohol marketing in Europe in order to gather reliable information about the volume and content of alcohol marketing and about the functioning of the existing procedures related to the regulation of alcohol marketing.
2. Promoting and disseminating impact research
EUCAM aims to be an easy accessible source of current information and knowledge about the impact of alcohol marketing in European countries.
EUCAM publishes summaries on recent scientific studies on its website together with overviews of reports written by NGOs, governmental organizations and the alcohol industry. In addition, EUCAM updates its overview on alcohol marketing regulations in Europe. Summarizing impact research and giving an updated overview of alcohol marketing regulations are an official commitment in the Alcohol and Health Forum.
- What is EUCAM?
The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing or EUCAM was established in 2007 by the National Foundation for Alcohol Prevention in the Netherlands and operates under the support of the NGOs: ACTIS; AV.OG.TIL; IOGT NTO; Nordic Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research; Danish Alcohol Policy Network and; Eurocare Italia.
- What is the effect of labelling/health warnings on alcoholic products?
Most research on the effect of alcohol warning labels are conducted in the United States after the introduction of labelling on alcoholic products in 1989. A review of studies found that especially the highest risks groups (Young drinkers, pregnant women and heavy drinkers) became more likely to recall the messages and increased the awareness. However, the review article found no or minimal effects of alcohol warning labels on behaviour.
This conclusion was underlined by the review report by Anderson which shows that although health warnings on tobacco and nutrition are supposed to influence behaviour, studies of the limited experience for alcohol find no evidence of an impact of health warning labels in influencing behaviour. Health warnings on alcoholic products raise awareness and increase the conversation on the topic but do not affect the consumption of alcohol. Exceptions are pregnant women who are light consumers.
However, the Anderson argue that the introduction of warning labels on tobacco products was driven by the recognition that tobacco is not an ordinary commodity, and that this argument is also plausible to alcohol. Consumers should be informed about the risks of taking alcohol, especially the risks during pregnancy, when driving or operating machinery.
Click here for more information on Labelling