Declaration of the Technical Consultation to the World Health Organization on the Marketing and Promotion of Alcohol to Young People

28.5.2002

A technical consultation to the WHO on the marketing and promotion of alcohol to young people, hosted by the Valencian Community on May 7-9, 2002, brought together 50 people from 22 countries with technical expertise in marketing, public health and community national and international level responses.

Participants reviewed examples of alcohol marketing to young people, presented by young people and other delegates from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas. The examples demonstrated that young people across the globe live in environments characterized by aggressive and ubiquitous efforts encouraging them to initiate drinking and to drink heavily.

The majority of these examples, as well as much of the expenditure on marketing, augments the substantial and influential presence of alcohol marketing in the traditional media outlets of television, radio, print and outdoor. The examples attest to the rising importance of musical, sports and cultural sponsorships, internet-based promotions and web-sites, product placements, youth-oriented new product development, on-premise and special event promotions, and other efforts to make alcoholic beverages a normal and integral part of young people' s lives and cultures. The use of the complete marketing mix of products, pricing, easy availability and promotion requires a comprehensive public health response that addresses all of these marketing variables.

Research evidence suggests that young people respond to this marketing on an emotional level, changing their beliefs and expectations about drinking. The marketing clearly influences young people' s decision to drink. Exposure to and enjoyment of alcohol advertising predicts heavier and more frequent drinking among young people. The marketing contributes to young people over-estimating the prevalence of heavy and frequent drinking among their peers, and creates a climate for further increases in alcohol consumption by young people.

Alcohol marketing presents a one-sided view of alcohol use, masking its contribution to morbidity, mortality and social harm.It affects social norms about drinking throughout society, and contributes to an environment hostile to public health measures and messages.

Current responses are piecemeal and inadequate, and have done little to control the marketing of alcohol products. Evidence suggests that self-regulation by the alcohol, advertising and media industries is ineffective. Media literacy, training young people to de-code and resist marketing messages, by itself is insufficent to address the emotional and non-logical appeal of the marketing. New responses are required. The global nature of the marketing demands a response at international, national and local levels.

We make the following general recommendations:

Noting the dangers inherent in the exposure of young people to alcohol marketing, and the general failure of industry self-regulation to limit the marketing of alcohol to young people,

    We recommend tat the WHO assist countries in taking all legislative or regulatory steps necessary to ensure that young people are not exposed to promotional messages about alcohol.

Noting that the alcohol industry has achieved a high level of sophistication in its use of media to attract and encourage young people to drinking,

    We recommend tat the WHO assist countries in raising awareness of these techniques, and developing best practices in media advocacy and counteradvertising programs, and that such practices be undertaken independently of commercial interests, and with participation of and leadership from young people themselves.

Noting the importance of young people' s perspectives on this problem, and the creativity and unique knowledge of the situation that they possess,

    We recommend that young people play a central role in the work to free their generation from the illusions created by marketing and associated promotions of alcohol.

Noting the threats posed by trade agreements, negotiations and disputes to the ability of jurisdictions to protect the public health through the regulation of the marketing of beverage alcohol, and that there is a particular potential threat from the current negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services,

    We recommend that the WHO formulate a strategy to ensure that current negotiations on the services agreement do not undermine the rights and capacities of jurisdictions to set appropriate and public health-oriented alcohol policies.

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