We Provide
Spacer Spacer
Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill
See also rejectd supplementary orderss

Omissions from the Bill

  • Alcohol advertising
  • Promotions encouraging excessive drinking
  • Alcohol container labelling

The terms of reference of the Liquor Review 1996 included both alcohol advertising and container labelling. However, although submissions had been made, these matters were set aside by the Liquor Review committee on the grounds that the advertising industry was to review its voluntary code early this year, and container labelling was being considered by the Australia & New Zealand Food Authority.

Policy background on alcohol advertising
Policy shifts to permit increases in alcohol advertising on television and radio parallel the corporatisation and privatisation of the broadcast media, and the matter appears now to have moved beyond policy control.
Alcohol promotion in programming and the frequency of alcohol ads comes under a Broadcasting Standards Authority code, while the content of advertisements (rather than sponsored programme logos) comes under a voluntary Advertising Standards Authority Code on Liquor Advertising. Television advertising for retail liquor outlets was permitted from 1981, and from 1987 the major breweries produced television commercials ostensibly advertising the corporate body, not the product, but was de facto alcohol advertising with sports sponsorship themes, including aggressive imagery. A review led to a tighter Code and free broadcasting time for health promotion messages, but permitted brand advertising after 9 pm from in February 1992. These proposals were approved by Cabinet, but the policy was to be reviewed after three years.

In April 1994, the Potter Review added five new principles, redrafted some rules and recommended wider consultation by the industry’s ‘pre-vetter’ and wider promotion of the complaints procedure. It dismissed a large number of submissions advocated a total ban on broadcast liquor advertising, and a growing body of research evidence showed the response of children and young people to the quadrupling of alcohol advertising that occurred after the 1992 policy change.

A private members bill first introduced by Joy McLauchlin in September 1992 reached a select committee but in 1996 was withdrawn on the assurance that policy on alcohol advertising would be fully considered together with other alcohol policy issues in the review of the Sale of Liquor Act. This is not the case. Alcohol advertising was set aside because the ASA was planning a further review of its code. This was done with terms of restricted to ‘new matters’ only and resulted in a few small adjustments to the code.

There has been no proper opportunity for politicians, policy makers and the public to consider the impact and implications of alcohol advertising on the broadcast media.

At the second reading of the Bill a supplementary order prohibiting alcohol advertising on television was presented by Lianne Dalziel, Labour MP. The Alcohol & Public Health Unit supports this amendment. There were objections and the matter was not voted on and was not referred to the Justice Select Committee along with the Bill.

Research links alcohol advertising and alcohol related harm
Research carried out in the 1980s on the relationship between alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption has frequently been described as inconclusive. However, a recent review concluded that research has been strengthened in subsequent years by careful conceptual and methodological critiques. Cross-national analysis of advertising bans, several correlational analyses of exposure to advertising, methodologically sound experimental studies and a longitudinal study all suggested some impact. Evidence that advertising has a small but contributory impact on drinking behaviour was considered stronger than in the 1980s (Edwards et al. 1994)
Research since 1994 has further strengthened this conclusion
A recent US study has linked alcohol advertising directly with measures of alcohol related harm, the main focus of alcohol policy. Econometric techniques were used to show that alcohol advertising is a contributing factor in the high level of motor vehicle fatalities (although less important than price). It was estimated that a ban on all broadcast alcohol ads (spirits were not advertised before 1996) could reduce US road deaths by 2000-3000 a year (Saffer 1997).
Research in New Zealand since the 1992 policy change to allow brand advertising on television suggests that alcohol brand advertising helps to recruit new young drinkers, and makes it difficult for problem drinkers to abstain (Casswell 1995; Holibar et al. 1994; Thomson et al. 1994). It also serves a broader function: confirming people in their current behaviour (Casswell & Martin 1986).
Trends in drinking
Of particular concern is the increase in quantities young people have been drinking over the period since the quadrupling of alcohol advertisements on television. Analysis of Auckland surveys from 1990 to 1996 shows increases in the amount consumed on a typical occasion by14-19 year old drinkers, as well as increases in drunkenness and in the alcohol-related problems they reported. Among the 17 -19 year olds this amount increased from four cans of beer (or glasses of wine) to seven cans of beer (Wyllie et al. 1998).

The increase in typical quantities consumed was particularly marked immediately following the 1992 policy change, during the year in which the average 10-17 year old was exposed to 317 viewings of some very powerful alcohol advertisements (Casswell, et al. 1994). The suggestion that this increase in heavy drinking among the young was affected by the new broadcast advertising is supported by the results of qualitative research carried out by the Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit at this time.

How alcohol advertising influences the young
Psychological research indicates that advertisements for particular brands also sell alcohol as a general product. One way advertising works is by making us more positive about things we see more often. Drinking is portrayed as part of attractive lifestyles which appear within the reach of normal aspirations, and are designed to appeal to particular personality types (Casswell & Martin 1986). As a consultant psychologist to the alcohol industry noted in 1984:
"More and more, it seems, the liquor industry has awakened to the truth. It isn’t selling bottles or glasses or even liquor. It’s selling fantasies." (Nathanson-Moog 1984):

Alcohol advertising is one of many things which affect young people’s drinking, including their families, friends, ease of access and the price. In New Zealand, research has shown that alcohol ads are well designed to meet important needs among young people (Wyllie 1997). They produce a positive emotional response which is particularly important in shaping younger people’s views of alcohol (Holibar et al 1994), as well as for those already encountering problems with drinking (Thomson et al. 1994; Thomson et al. 1997). They also suggest that drinking can provide positive benefits such as making sure you will have mates and are a ‘real man’. These are key goals for young people as they become adults.

Alcohol advertising is noticed by children in their formative years when their attitudes towards the use of alcohol are developing (Wyllie, Casswell & Stewart 1989). In a sample of New Zealand children aged 10 to 17 years, those who liked the television advertising more than the others also held significantly more positive views about drinking, and were more likely to say that they would be drinking at least weekly when aged 20. These expectancy measures are good indicators of likely future behaviour.

Among 10 to 13 year old boys, half said that they knew more about drinking from watching alcohol ads. The 14 to 17 year olds who liked the ads best were more likely to be already drinking. Part of this effect was because liking the ads was linked with feeling that ‘drinking makes life more fun and exciting’ and ‘people get on better together when they’ve had a few drinks’ (Wyllie et al. 1994a&b: Holibar et al. 1994).

A longitudinal study of Dunedin teenagers has found that those who recalled more of the alcohol ads when aged 15 years drank larger quantities of beer when they were aged 18 (Connolly et al. 1994). A more recent analysis incorporating data from the same sample at an older age has found that how much the same young people liked alcohol advertising when they were aged 18 also had an effect on how much they were drinking at age 21. Those who liked the advertising the most drank more later and this heavier drinking was in turn linked to self reports of aggressive behaviour linked to their drinking. This effect was independent of how much they were drinking earlier (Casswell & Zhang, 1998). Both of these recent analyses of longitudinal data from New Zealand are unique in investigating the impact of alcohol advertising within a longitudinal methodology and have strengthened the body of research in this area.

A broader policy review
Based on this research evidence, we do not believe it is healthy public policy to permit advertisements on television and radio which promote sales of a substance with high personal, social and fiscal costs. From a public health perspective a ban on alcohol advertising on the broadcast media is the preferred policy option.
Given the limited terms of reference of the ASA’s review and the responsibility split between the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the ASA on such matters as saturation, we feel that issues around broadcasting and alcohol advertising should be revisited at the highest level of policy. Liquor law amendments provide an opportunity to raise issues of policy around alcohol , and we believe that the public and policy debates should be widened to include alcohol advertising. Alcohol advertising information kit
Promoting excessive drinking
Policy issues related to the promotion of drinking have largely been considered as part of the above debate on alcohol ads in the broadcast media. However, alcohol is also promoted at the level of the individual licensed outlet. Submissions to review of the Sale of Liquor Act have included calls to include in the legislation a clear prohibition on promotions which encourage excessive drinking and intoxication. Enforcement officers and health promotion workers trying to discourage irresponsible practices by licensees, for example of student pubs, find no support in the law.
The Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit supports the inclusion in the Act of a prohition on ‘promotions or pricing which encourage excessive or fast drinking’. Such a prohibition was included in the S.246 in the 1962 Act. The banning of undesirable promotions is increasingly common in licensing legislating in comparable countries to NZ (Hill 1997).

At the second reading of the Bill a supplementary order including a prohibition on promotions which incite excessive or fast drinking was presented by Lianne Dalziel, Labour MP. The Alcohol & Public Health Unit suppots this amendment. There were objections and the matter was not voted on and was not referred to the Justice Select Committee along with the Bill.

Warning labels on alcohol containers
The Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit supports government health warning labels on all alcohol product containers.

To be most effective, the label should be a strongly worded message about a single health risk, rotated from an approved set of messages with stipulated requirements on placement, size and visibility (MacKinnon 1993; Maloufe et al. 1993). The same date of implementation should be required for labels on all alcohol products, and implementation should be accompanied by a health promotion campaign on alcohol risk issues (Greenfield, 1997).

Research on United States experiences with alcohol (and also tobacco) warning labels shows that these can be an effective means of reminding drinkers of alcohol related risks, and influencing both social behaviour and the choices of individual consumers (Greenfield, 1997). It is concluded that warnings of health risks on alcohol containers can be a well-targeted, low cost and publicly supported mechanism for raising awareness about alcohol related harm, and for influencing the social climate in which drinking occurs.

At the second reading of the Bill a supplementary order to require warning lables on alcohol containers was presented by Dianne Yates, Labour MP. The Alcohol & Public Health Unit suppots this amendment. There were objections and the matter was not voted on and was not referred to the Justice Select Committee along with the Bill.

Health warnings on television advertising
A recent study testing responses to warnings which followed televised beer advertisements suggests that they have potential in the long term, through repeated exposure, to influence beliefs about risks and benefits of alcohol. Confidence was eroded in positive beliefs about beer after the warnings were seen. Further attention to providing warnings was considered warranted (Slater & Domenech 1995).

Top | Back | Bill | Home