This is a monthly discussion of "issues to watch" in the field of alcohol policy.
Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages in Canada
If you watch the latest beer commercial during your Thursday night sitcom or the upcoming Superbowl, it is more than likely that domestic abuse, poisoning, and motor-vehicle collisions will not be top of mind. Alcohol marketers are skilled at promoting the benefits of drinking in their advertisements while the harms are carefully hidden.
According to the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, “alcohol is a product with advantages (taste, mood) as well as a considerable number of disadvantages (health problems, accidents, criminality, etc.). In recent years, the disadvantages have become clearer as a result of scientific research”
Earlier this month, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines when it was announced that his administration intends to limit alcohol advertising and promotions for bars and liquor. Current plans seek to reduce the exposure to alcohol marketing in public and retail settings, due in part to a significant spike in alcohol-related emergency room visits for underage citizens over the past six years.
For over two decades, the advertising of alcoholic beverages has been linked to various health consequences, but is only recently becoming more widely known. Especially among young adults, alcohol advertising has been linked to heavy drinking, drinking in dangerous situations, and motor vehicle crash fatalities.
In 2003, Professor Thomas Babor and colleagues confirmed through review of international research that alcohol advertising was found to promote and reinforce perceptions of drinking as positive, glamourous, and relatively risk free – perceptions shaped by advertising techniques including sex appeal, humour, and use of popular music. In 2010, this thinking was reaffirmed in Babor’s second edition of Alcohol: No ordinary commodity, finding that favourable attitudes towards drinking influences social norms along with the acceptance and promotion of both heavy and underage drinking.
According to new research conducted by the Ontario Public Health Association and the University of British Columbia, Canada’s alcohol advertising regulation system is in dire need of being updated and strengthened.
This finding “points to the need for proper regulation and enforcement of alcohol advertising to protect impressionable children and youth against the harmful effects of alcohol advertising,” the report goes on to explain. Recommendations stemming from a content analysis, a literature review, and key informant interviews fall under three major categories: regulating scope such as content and volume restrictions; regulating procedures such as addressing monitoring, complaint, and enforcement systems; and the provision of additional supports including conducting additional research and increasing public awareness of alcohol advertising issues.
As stated in the report, in order to protect children and youth from the harmful effects of alcohol advertising, “public health can work with relevant stakeholders and government departments to affect favourable changes in alcohol advertising control measures.”
To learn more about this research, OPHA is offering a webinar on the Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages in Canada
on January 31, 2012 at 11:00 am to 12:00 pm
. Please visit the following link for details: Here
Another Call for Stronger Impaired Driving Policies
Since 1987, the organization Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) has been teaching youth about the dangers of impaired driving through harm-reduction presentations and organizing school chapters.
OSAID targets audiences at an age where many people start both driving and experimenting with alcohol.
"It's all about peer education,” director Matt Evans stated recently to The Barrie Examiner. “We don't want to be an authority figure that says, 'Hey, do this!'”
However, as drunk driving rates continue to rise causing tragedy for Ontario residents; one needs to wonder if students are still open to this type of messaging to change their behaviour.
"Clearly, a lot of people still are not getting the message," says MADD Canada's National President Denise Dubyk "The numbers being reported by municipal and regional police forces show high numbers of impaired driving charges and warn range suspensions.”
For example, the number of criminal impaired driving charges laid by the OPP this holiday season more than doubled in Ontario, increasing from 308 in 2010 to 652 in 2011. Further, Peel Regional Police charged 48 more people with impaired driving offences and issued 77 more warn range suspensions in 2011 than in 2010.
Such statistics have caused a renewed call for randomized breath testing. According to MADD Canada, the Government of Canada needs to introduce random breath testing legislation in order to significantly reduce impaired driving rates. Such a law would give police the ability to demand a breath test from any driver – thus increasing the probability of detection while creating a societal deterrent effect. Further, it is interesting to note that random breath testing has been introduced in the great majority of comparable, developed democracies, resulting in sustained reductions in impaired driving crashes, fatalities and injuries.
"MADD Canada has done a great deal of research and analysis on random breath testing," Ms. Dubyk said. "This is a tool that will save 248 lives and prevent 14,624 injuries every year, and it will save Canada about $4.3 billion annually … [Canada has] one of the worst records on impaired driving in the world. The deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving are entirely preventable. It is time for Canada to take a stronger stand against impaired driving.”