New Zealand homes are a common place for children to be exposed to alcohol marketing. Local research shows the home is the most common place for children to be exposed to alcohol marketing, with 47% of all exposures occurring in the home, most often through sports sponsorship and branded merchandise.
Exposure to alcohol advertising, including that in the home, is related to taking up drinking earlier and heavier drinking. The latest research indicates that the relationship between exposure to alcohol marketing and underage drinking is causal.
Social media is commonly used by alcohol companies to market their product. Many young people share images of themselves and alcohol brands, exposing others and using alcohol brand values to construct and position their social identities.
Being exposed to alcohol promotions can lead to alcohol harms.
Reducing exposure in our homes
In our homes, children may be exposed to many different types/forms of alcohol marketing, including:
- advertising and sponsorship of sporting events, teams, and athletes
- advertising on TV and/or radio
- alcohol promotion within TV & radio programmes and content
- alcohol marketing and images of drinking behaviour on social media from brands, influencers, and peers
- alcohol products and alcohol-branded merchandise that are owned by family members, friends.
- product placement in movies and video games
- alcohol advertising in supermarket, grocery, and off-licence mailers and other material delivered to mailboxes
Impact of advertising on adolescent drinking
Systematic reviews of research have found exposure to alcohol marketing leads to earlier initiation of drinking and heavier drinking including binge drinking among those who already drink. In particular, engagement with alcohol marketing (taking free gifts, owning branded clothing, engaging with alcohol websites and branded social media pages) saw children engaging in frequent drinking earlier. Having a favourite alcohol advertisement was associated with increased initiation of binge drinking.
Underage binge drinking has been associated with a range of negative outcomes, including peer violence, sexual violence, alcohol‐related fighting, poor school performance, suicide attempts, and using illegal drugs.
Exposure of alcohol advertising on social media
The introduction of digital technologies has opened up new platforms for marketing and promotion.
Alcohol companies aggressively use these new digital platforms, in particular social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and user-generated content.
In 2011, two major alcohol companies announced their plan to increase their digital spend on social media. Bacardi planned to shift up to 90% of its digital spend to Facebook and Diageo expressed their multi-million dollar partnership with Facebook.
Worldwide in 2012, there were 1,017 company-sponsored alcohol-brand related sites on Facebook. In Australia, the top 20 alcohol brands had more than 2.5 million followers on their Facebook pages. Hosts of these pages generated more than 4,500 items of content where followers interacted with them by liking, sharing or commenting on them for more them 2.3 million times.
Young adults are highly active on social media, engaging with their friends or socialising. As such, exposure of alcohol advertising on social media can encourage alcohol consumption. Moreover, Facebook or other social media platform provides marketers with access to the profile data of users who like pages. These types of techniques seek to embed alcohol-branded activities in the daily lives of site fans and followers making it become an intrinsic element of daily norms.
Alcohol-content, presented as visual images and or textual content, along with positive peer reactions to the posts results in showcasing of inappropriate alcohol use in a positive light.
Posting alcohol-related content on personal social media accounts is linked to adverse alcohol-related outcomes such as higher alcohol use, craving and also alcohol-related harms. Those who are exposed to alcohol-related content on social media (e.g. posts shared by or liked by their friends in their social network) have been associated with adverse alcohol outcomes.
Associate Professor Nicholas Carah of University of Queensland, has been researching the emergence of digital media platforms over the last decade. He recently gave a remote address to the Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2020 in Dublin discussion the emergence and and increasingly sophisticated development of alcohol marketing on these platforms. You can watch his presentation on YouTube here.
Alcohol and marketing companies have developed their own Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. The Code contains a set of guidelines for all alcohol advertisements in NZ. From April 2021, new alcohol advertisements will be expected to adhere to the new Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code, which will apply to all alcohol advertisements from July 2021.
There is also a law around irresponsible promotion of alcohol. This relates to the promotion of excessive drinking as well as advertising/promotions that appeal to minors. Click below to read more.
Make a complaint about alcohol advertising
You have two options in relation to a complaint:
- Make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority under the Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion or the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code (for new advertisements from April 2021, all advertisements from July 2021).
- Make a complaint to the Police about a breach of Section 237 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act. It is likely that you will need a high standard of evidence to make a complaint to section 237. But don't let that deter you.
Make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority
Please note that anonymous complaints are not accepted: your name must be included.
Follow the complaints process outlined on the ASA website, please click here - ASA - HOW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT
If the advertisement is outdoors, take a photo of it.
Here are some tools to help you. The first is an example of complaint letter to the ASA under the Code for Alcohol Advertising and Promotion (expires end of June 2021), the second is a template of a letter to get your started.
Here are some tools to help you. The first is an example of complaint letter to the ASA under the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code (in effect for new advertisements from April 2021, all advertisements from July 2021), the second is a template of a letter to get your started.
Keep a log of alcohol advertising complaints
It may be useful to keep a log of complaints, especially if they are in your local community.
And here is an incident log of alcohol advertising on social and digital media like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc.
If your complaint is about TV programming
If you are concerned about the promotion of alcohol within television programmes (not advertisements), complaints can be made to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Click here to read the section about the BSA on our website.
If you want to take action on alcohol sponsorship in your community settings (clubs, etc.)
Many parents are concerned about their children being exposed to alcohol sponsorship in sporting settings. Many events that children attend may also be sponsored by alcohol companies.
To take action on sponsorship in sports, clubs, or public events (e.g. sporting matches, music, fashion festivals, arts and cultural events), click here.
Costs outweigh revenue from alcohol tax
The revenue that the Government receives from alcohol taxes does not come close to matching the costs of alcohol-related harm to our society.In 2020, alcohol contributed $1.193 billion of government revenue in the form of excise tax.
In contrast, alcohol misuse is estimated to cost New Zealand society $7.85 billion each year. This includes costs resulting from lost productivity, unemployment, as well as justice, health, ACC, welfare costs, etc.
Costs of alcohol harm exceed that of other drug harm.
It is estimated that :
- 11% of all ACC claims are attributed to alcohol-related injuries.
- 18% of the New Zealand Police budget is spent on alcohol incidents.
Cost to productivity
Alcohol also results in major losses of productivity in workplaces and schools -
- In 2012/13, male drinkers (4%) were 1.6 times more likely to be absent from work or studies than female drinkers (2.5%); and
- In 2012/13, male drinkers (6.9%) were 1.4 times more likely to experience negative financial effects due to their drinking than female drinkers.
Every year, 147,500 adults take one or more days off work or school due to their alcohol use. A total of 84,400 adults have experienced harmful effects on their work, study or employment because of alcohol.
In 2012, 6% of adolescent drinkers report having their work or school affected in the last year due to alcohol. Among those students living in the most deprived areas, 8% report problems with work or school (exacerbating existing inequities in outcomes).
Our drinking landscape - alcohol is over-supplied and advertised heavily
Our drinking landscape has changed considerably over the last 30 years. We have seen dramatic increases in the number of places selling alcohol, the affordability and types of alcoholic products available, and use of innovative marketing strategies to advertise them.
Today, there are over 11,000 places that sell alcohol:
- 1641 club licences
- 6628 on-licences (bars, restaurants, café, etc)
- 2904 off-licences (9 auctioneer, 942 bottle stores, 92 brewers, 9 caterers, 58 chartered clubs, 41 complementary, 4 conveyances, 16 distillery, 3 function centres, 341 grocery store, 150 hotels, 128 other, 266 mail order, 51 restaurant, 327 supermarket, 233 taverns, 234 wine makers)
A brief history of the liberalisation of our alcohol laws
Beginning in 1989, new liquor laws increased the availability of alcohol across New Zealand - wine entered our supermarkets in 1989 and beer became available in supermarkets and grocery stores in 1999.
Today, around 75% of all alcohol in New Zealand is sold from off-licences: 43% from bottle stores and 32% from supermarkets and grocery stores. Often at very cheap prices.
More liquor outlets are concentrated in low income suburbs than more socio-economically advantaged suburbs.
The increasingly availability of Ready to Drinks (RTDs) has had a huge impact on heavy drinking in New Zealand, particularly among young girls.
Alcohol has become more affordable over time. This is especially so for wine.
In total, New Zealanders spend around $5 billion every year on alcohol.
Until 1980, alcohol advertising on radio and television was regulated by law - only advertising of outlets and services was permitted, but not corporate or brand advertising.
In 1991, alcohol brand advertising was permitted on television after 9.00pm. However, to provide balance against alcohol industry advertising, free broadcasting time was to be allocated to health promotion messages. In 1992, alcohol advertising was permitted under self-regulation by the industry. For more information, click here.
Research in 2004 found that within prime-time television viewing in New Zealand, a scene depicting alcohol occurred every 9 minutes.
In 2009, it was estimated that $200,000 was spent each day advertising alcohol in New Zealand.
In 1999, the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol was reduced from 20 to 18 years.
Everything we care deeply about will start to improve when we reduce alcohol harm. With less alcohol harm, we can; improve our mental wellbeing, reduce suicide and family harm, have safer roads and communities, improve our physical health (e.g. fewer injuries and cancers) and lift employment and productivity. We can open up space to enable genuine conversations, trust and creativity.
As a result of substantial cost savings from reduced harm, every New Zealander stands to benefit. Our core services and sectors, such as ACC, police, health, welfare and justice will experience the greatest gains from reduced harm.
The possibilities are endless. Watch the video below and click the links to learn more.
Past year drinking
In 2020/21, the prevalence of past-year drinking among New Zealand adults aged 15+ years was 78.5% (equating to 3,248,000 adults)
This prevalence of past-year drinking in 2020/21 was significantly lower than in 2019/20 (81.6%) and had returned to around the level of past-year drinking in 2011/12 (79.5%). Males (81.8%) were more likely to drink in the past-year than females (75.2%).
For more detail on past-year drinking, click here.
The overall prevalence of, and inequities in, hazardous drinking in the total population has remained unchanged over many years. In 2020/21, around one in every five (or 19.9%) New Zealanders had a hazardous drinking pattern. Males (26.9%) were twice as likely as females (13.2%) to be hazardous drinkers.
The number of hazardous drinkers in the population equated to 824,000 adults aged 15+ years. This figure is likely to be conservative given that population-based surveys typically produce underestimates of alcohol consumption.
Around 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults has a hazardous drinking pattern that places them and/or others at risk of harm
Note: ‘Hazardous drinking’ refers to an established alcohol drinking pattern that carries a risk of harming the drinker’s physical or mental health or having harmful social effects on the drinker or others. It is determined by using the World Health Organisation's AUDIT checklist - a score of 8 or more indicates hazardous drinking.
Whilst 18 to 24 year olds maintain the highest prevalence of drinking in the country (total 34.9%; 41% for men, 28.5% for women), hazardous drinking patterns remain prevalent throughout older age groups in New Zealand, particularly among men.
Inequities in consumption persist - in 2020/21 Māori (33.2%) were more likely to be hazardous drinkers than non-Māori, especially for wāhine Māori (24.8%) who reported a hazardous drinking prevalence that was 1.9 times higher than non-Māori women. Māori men (42%) reported a hazardous drinking prevalence 1.6 times higher than non-Māori men.
For more detail on hazardous drinking, click here.
Heavy episodic drinking at least monthly
In 2020/21, 21.4% of adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six more or more drinks on one occasion, at least monthly.
More than 1 in every 5 New Zealand adults report monthly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Very little overall change was found in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking at least monthly. Compared to 2019/20, a reduction was observed in heavy episodic drinking at least monthly among Māori women (from 28.7% in 2019/20 to 23.3% in 2020/21) and among New Zealand adults aged 45-54 years (30.0% to 24.6% monthly, and from 19.0% to 14.9% weekly). We need to see future surveys to determine real trends.
Heavy episodic drinking at least weekly
In 2020/21, 12.1% of New Zealand adults aged 15+ reported consumption of six or more drinks on one occasion, at least weekly.
Around 1 in every 8 New Zealand adults report weekly consumption of 6+ drinks in one occasion
Likewise, very little overall change was found in the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking at least weekly. Compared to 2019/20, a reduction was observed in heavy episodic drinking at least monthly among the age group of 45-54 years (19% in 2019/20 to 14.9% in 2020/21). We need to see future surveys to determine real trends. Again, we need to see future surveys to determine real trends.
Alcohol use disorders
There is a lack of information on the number of New Zealanders with a diagnosis of alcohol use disorders.
In 2006, it was estimated that just over 4% of the population in their lifetime will experience alcohol addiction and 11% will experience alcohol abuse.
In 2006, it was found that 4.2% of the population reported symptoms of alcohol abuse (2.6%) or dependence (1.3%) in the past year. This equates to over 100,000 New Zealanders.
Every year (since 2011/12), the Ministry of Health carries out the largest survey into the health and well-being of New Zealanders. It is called the New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS).
The survey is designed to yield an annual sample size of approximately 14,000 adults aged 15 years and over. The data is collected at the respondents’ homes, with the interviewer entering responses directly into a laptop computer and/or asking the respondent to complete a section of the interview by themselves using the laptop computer. The 2020/21 survey, taking place during the pandemic, also used a computer-assisted video interviewing (CAVI) approach for a small sample of participants.
The NZHS 2020/21 represents the sample selected for the period September 2020 to August 2021. For some periods in 2020 and 2021, the survey was suspended in parts of New Zealand that had known community outbreaks of COVID-19. As a result, the sample size for 2020/21 is smaller than usual and the 95% confidence intervals around some estimates are wider than usual. The methodology report is available here.
In 2020/21, the final weighted response rate was 77%. The final sample was 9,709 adults aged 15 years and over.
Learn more here
What we drinkRead More...
Drinking in the past year
Trends in hazardous drinking
Drinking trends in adolescents
Drinking trends in older adults
Covid-19 and NZ drinking