Lancet study calls for global alcohol advertising ban

8th May, 2019 by Amy Hopkins

A major report on global alcohol consumption has recommended an international ban on alcohol marketing and advertising.

Alcohol harm

The world is “not on track” to achieve targets to reduce harmful drinking, according to a new report in The Lancet journal

The study, published in The Lancet, looked at alcohol intake in 189 countries between 1990 and 2017, during which time consumption increased from 5.9 litres of pure alcohol a year per adult to 6.5 litres. Researchers forecast that consumption will further increase to 7.6 litres by 2030.

As a result of increased alcohol consumption and population growth, the total volume of alcohol consumed globally per year has increased by 70% in the past 27 years.

The report highlights the shifting geography of drinking levels, with reductions in Europe more than offset by increases in Southeast Asia. In particular, alcohol intake increased in countries with a growing middle class, such as India, China and Vietnam. By 2030, Europe is no longer predicted to have the highest level of alcohol use.

The estimates also suggest that by 2030 half of all adults will drink alcohol, and almost a quarter (23%) will binge drink at least once a month.

According to researchers, increasing rates of alcohol use mean the world is “not on track” to achieve targets to reduce harmful drinking. The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiming to see a 10% reduction in harmful alcohol use by 2025.

Furthermore, the volume of alcohol consumed is growing faster than the number of drinkers, leading to an “increased alcohol-attributable disease burden”.

‘Risk factor’

“Based on our data, the WHO’s aim of reducing the harmful use of alcohol by 10% by 2025 will not be reached globally,” said study author Jakob Manthey, TU Dresden, Germany.

“Instead, alcohol use will remain one of the leading risk factors for the burden of disease for the foreseeable future, and its impact will probably increase relative to other risk factors. Implementation of effective alcohol policies is warranted, especially in rapidly developing countries with growing rates of alcohol use.”

The report’s authors have called for the implementation of policy measures including increased taxation, restricted availability, and a ban on alcohol marketing and advertising at a global level.

According to Dr Sarah Callinan, of La Trobe University in Australia, “robust evidence” supporting policies that increase the price of alcohol and restrict its availability largely relate to “high-income countries”.

As such, the “potential efficacy” of such policies in lower- and middle-income countries, where more than half of alcohol consumption is unrecorded, is “likely to be limited”.

She continued: “[Although] price or availability-based policies are important, strict restrictions on advertising and other promotional activities are crucial to slow the growing demand for alcohol in these countries.

“Similarly, rigorous drink-driving countermeasures are necessary so that increasing consumption does not lead to increases in road traffic injury.

“Supporting evidence-based policies outside high-income countries, despite anticipated strong industry resistance, will be a key task for public health advocates in the coming decades.”

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