I would like to raise the issue of lobbyists from both the alcohol and advertising industries who are vigorously opposing various aspects of the Public Health Alcohol bill.
Lobbyists from the Advertising Industry claim that the Bill in its current format poses a threat to the Advertising freedoms.
However, in my view the objective of the advertising measures contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is to protect children in Ireland from exposure to alcohol marketing, not to interfere with the ability of adults to choose between brands
Research conducted by NUI Galway found more than half of schoolchildren reported that they were exposed to four or more alcohol advertisements per day.
The vast majority were exposed to traditional or offline alcohol advertising, while 77 % of the children were also exposed to online alcohol advertising.
The current systems of advertising self-regulation are failing to protect children from daily exposure to alcohol marketing, which can be a sophisticated and powerful influence on their drinking behaviour and expectations.
Marketing can shape youth culture by creating and sustaining expectations and norms about how to achieve social or sporting success, how to celebrate, how to relax and how to belong.
Comprehensive evidence from longitudinal studies, which follow people over time, clearly indicates a causal relationship between alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour.
For children, exposure to alcohol marketing, including advertising, sponsorship and many other forms of promotion, increases the likelihood that they will start to drink alcohol earlier and to drink more if they have already started.
Children, as they are still developing, are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol, both in terms of their physical and mental health, including the risky behaviour that often goes hand-in-hand with alcohol consumption at a young age.
Meanwhile, the younger a child is when they start to drink alcohol the greater the risk that they will develop harmful drinking patterns later in life.
For these reasons, a key objective of public health policy is to delay the age of initial alcohol consumption by children.
The Growing Up In Ireland study recently released the key findings resulting from a survey of children first looked at aged nine and who are now aged 17 and 18. The survey shows that children who start drinking alcohol earlier are more likely to drink more frequently – and to consume more alcohol when drinking – than those who start drinking alcohol later.