A major Australian alcohol body has rejected comments by a Curtin University researcher that the industry has taken advantage of loose advertising restrictions to target children.
Alcohol Beverage Australia executive director Fergus Taylor dismissed comments by McCusker Centre’s Julia Stafford that Australia’s current advertising rules were insufficient to protect young Australians.
Alcohol Beverages Australia is a body made up of industry leaders, which highlights the positive social, cultural and economic contribution of alcohol in Australia and Mr Taylor said declining rates of alcohol consumption in young people showed the industry was not luring young Australians toward drinking.
“Underage drinking has been falling for over 10 years and now 82 per cent of people 12 to 17-years-old do not drink at all,” he said.
“This decline has happened while alcohol advertising has been increasing which shows alcohol ads don’t target children and don’t cause underage drinking.”
Mr Taylor said young people generally picked up drinking habits through friends and parents and the current framework is more conservative than the public may realise.
“The alcohol beverages industry goes to great lengths to ensure minors are not targeted by its marketing and online age gating controls must be used where they’re available,” he said.
“The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research shows a decade long decline in underage drinking during a period of increased alcohol advertising, which is a clear indication that current regulations in place work well.”
McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth chief executive Julia Stafford told Examiner Newspapers last week that she believed the Federal Government needed to step in to regulate the industry further.
“We’re not trying to stop everybody drinking alcohol,” she said.
“There are big challenges with age controls – that’s flown under the radar for a long time and advertisers who have capitalised on that by advertising a lot on unregulated markets.
“When you look at some of the TV data we have – for example the MasterChef grand finale last year – young people zero to 17-years-old only represented 15 per cent of the audience but that was 266,000 young people.”
Ms Stafford said she wanted an investigation into television advertising laws and the laws for advertising alcohol products on social media.