The ASA’s opinion poll asked if alcohol marketing that appeals to children should be prohibited in Ireland.
“The question posed by the survey is a deliberate attempt to provide a one-sided and misleading narrative,” claimed ABFI Director Patricia Callan.
Speaking about the poll’s findings and the AHA’s related conclusions she said, “Proposed advertising restrictions contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will lead to a series of unintended consequences which will be hugely damaging for the Irish economy, a fact completely unaddressed in the AHA’s survey which makes the findings deeply flawed and misleading,” she claimed, “Any debate we have on the Bill should address all these issues in the round and not seek to present a skewed and frankly a deeply-biased view of its implications.
“The reality is the Bill contains a series of punitive measures that would make Ireland amongst the most restrictive countries in the world in terms of marketing freedoms for alcoholic products. It will not only make Ireland less attractive as a business location for global players, but it will also suffocate smaller players attempting to promote their products.
“A recent report by economist Jim Power on behalf of media owners in Ireland said that while the measures will leave a €20 million black hole in advertising revenues, ‘it is very questionable if the benefits to be derived from a ban on advertising would outweigh the costs’.
“Many of the advertising provisions in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are based on the French Loi Evin; Jim Power also points out that data from the most recent ESPAD report shows that drinking among young people in France continues to be a serious problem and that the strict advertising laws have had little impact on addressing this.
“Meanwhile, also according to ESPAD, for students in Ireland aged 15 to 16 years old, the lifetime use of alcohol declined by 15% between 1995 and 2015; 35% of students in 2015 had consumed alcohol in the previous 30 days which compares to an EU average of 48% and 28% had engaged in heavy episodic drinking in the previous 30 days which compares to an EU average of 35%.
“The facts speak for themselves: underage drinking, while still clearly an issue, is falling in Ireland – and is doing so without the strict provisions in the Bill. Overall, according to the WHO, alcohol consumption in Ireland has fallen by 25% since 2005 and 2016 – twice the EU28 average rate.
“The AHA’s opinion poll does not even remotely attempt to address these issues. Ireland already has the strictest placement and advertising content codes of most global markets. This is applied by the industry across all domestic and ‘opt out’ television channels alongside digital platforms including social media.
“We want to work with Government to find a more workable solution which would mean putting the existing codes on a statutory footing with significant penalties for breaches. This could be implemented within a much shorter timeframe with a regulatory authority already in place to police the system,” she concluded, “I’m confident if this information was provided to participants in the AHA opinion poll the results would be very different.”
Ireland has fallen from ninth to 18th position for alcohol consumption since 2005 out of the list of 28 countries, according to the WHO while CSO figures published last June show that the number of people drinking at home has declined by nearly 11% and those drinking outside has declined by 10%.