Case for Change

Restricting alcohol advertisng and sponsorship is one of three 'best buys' evidence-based measures to reduce alcohol harm endorsed by the World Health Organisation.  There is strong public support for restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship in New Zealand in the same way as is tobacco advertising and sponsorship is restricted.  Product labelling is important for branding and marketing of alcoholic beverages, but also provides a key platform for including information about risks associated with drinking, particularly the risks of drinking during pregnancy.  Research shows graphic pictorial health warnings are more effective than text warnings.  

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The three 'best buys' 

The World Health Organization has identified the following policy measures as the three 'best buys' to reduce alcohol harm:

  1. Price measures, in particular tax increases
  2. Reducing the availability and accessibility of alcohol
  3. Restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship

As shown in the Introduction to this overall section, there is strong evidence relating to the impact of alcohol advertising and alcohol consumption:

  • Young people with greater exposure to alcohol marketing are more likely to start drinking and drink heavily
  • The association between alcohol marketing and drinking among young people is causal

Public opinion

From 2010-2016, strong public support was found for restricting advertising and sponsorship:

  • 80% supported restrictions on alcohol advertising to young people
  • 68% support banning alcohol sponsorship of events that young people may attend

During the Law Commission review of the regulatory framework for the sale and supply of liquor, no issue was more hotly contested in consultation meetings and submissions than the issue of alcohol advertising and promotions.  The consensus was that advertising should be more heavily controlled, while sponsorship and promotions associating alcohol with sporting activity were widely deplored.  Almost every submitter to the Law Commission commented on advertising and sponsorship (2281 out of 2939 submissions).  Of those submissions, 86% supported banning or restricting all advertising of all alcohol in all media.

Product labelling is another important component of alcohol marketing.

Labels may be used to inform drinkers of the content and nutritional content of their drinks, as well as provide warning about the risks associated with drinking (including during pregnancy).

Currently, alcoholic products are not required to show ingredients or nutritional information. Although there is limited evidence of the effect of mandated health warnings on drinking behaviour,  there is a strong rationale that highly visible, evidence-based alcohol health warnings (similar to tobacco warnings), play an important part in a comprehensive approach to increasing knowledge of harmful effects of drinking and shifting cultural norms and behaviours around drinking.

Health warnings signal the risk of the hazardous commodity and may be viewed as an important component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce alcohol consumption. Recent research has shown that individuals exposed to graphic pictorial health warnings (in comparison to text warnings) had greater intentions to reduce and quit alcohol consumption.