WHO calls for greater regulation of cross-border marketing of alcohol

The study illustrates how the digital revolution is being used in marketing and promotion to advance the benefits of alcohol across national borders, and in many cases, regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment.

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption is linked to a range of health problems, from alcoholism and other mental and behavioral disorders to major non-communicable diseases such as cirrhosis, certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as injuries and diseases. Deaths from violence and road accidents.

WHO / Sergei Volkov

a drunk man sleeping on a bench

Save the lives of young people

Worldwide, about three million people die each year from harmful use of alcohol – one every 10 seconds – which represents about 5% of all deaths.

Young people account for a disproportionate number of alcohol-related deaths, with 13.5% of all deaths among people aged 20 to 39 related to alcohol.

“Alcohol deprives young people, their families and their community of their lives and potential,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. However, despite the obvious health risks, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than those on other psychoactive products. Better, well-enforced, and more consistent regulations for the marketing of alcohol would save and improve the lives of young people around the world.”

The advent of digital advertising

The report highlights how recent changes in alcohol marketing have created new opportunities to reach audiences.

The collection and analysis of data about user habits and preferences by ISPs has enabled alcohol marketers to target messages to specific groups across borders.

The study found that targeted advertising on social media is particularly effective, and influencers promote it and share messages.

According to a data source cited in the report, more than 70% of media spending by major US alcohol marketers in 2019 was through promotions, product placements, and online social media ads.

“The growing importance of digital media means that the marketing of alcohol is becoming increasingly transnational,” said Dag Reckfe, from the Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behavior Unit at the World Health Organization. This makes it more difficult for countries regulating the marketing of alcohol to control it effectively in their territory. There is a need for more cooperation between countries in this area. “

Sponsorship of sporting events

Alcoholic beverage makers also sponsor major sporting events globally, regionally and nationally, which the report says can significantly increase brand awareness among new audiences.

They also partner with sports federations and clubs to reach potential viewers and consumers in different parts of the world.

Other opportunities include sponsoring competitive gaming events or placing products in movies and series aired on international subscription channels.

A woman picks alcohol in a supermarket in Moscow, Russia.

WHO / Sergei Volkov

A woman picks alcohol in a supermarket in Moscow, Russia.

Consumption of alcohol as a means of liberation

The report is entitled sReducing the harm of alcohol through regulation Cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion activitiesIt also examines how to target specific audiences, with particular attention to children, teens, women and heavy drinkers.

According to the World Health Organization, studies have shown that starting to drink alcohol at an early age is an indicator of the risk of drinking in early adulthood and beyond. Marketers also specifically target regions of the world with large, young and growing populations, such as Africa and Latin America.

And while men consume three-quarters of the alcohol consumed globally, the low rate among women also provides an opportunity for growth. The report says that marketers of alcohol often present women’s drinking as a symbol of liberation and equality.

In addition, studies of domestic violence indicate that violence against women is more frequent when both partners and their partners are drinking, which may reduce, rather than increase, their strength within the spouses.

Heavy drinkers and addicts are another target of marketing strategies. The World Health Organization says: “Alcohol-dependent people often report a stronger desire to drink alcohol when confronted with alcohol-related messages, but they rarely have an effective way to avoid exposure to advertising or promotional content.”

Better integration into public health strategies and better collaboration

The report recommends incorporating restrictions or blanket bans on the marketing of alcohol, including cross-border aspects, into public health strategies. It also calls for more cooperation between countries.

The World Health Organization said that while many governments have implemented some form of restrictions on the marketing of alcohol, they tend to be relatively weak.

A 2018 study by the United Nations agency found that while most countries have some form of regulation of alcohol marketing in traditional media, nearly half have no regulation at all, which is true of the internet and social media.

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