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Medicine & Healthcare, Wiley-Blackwell

Alcohol companies targeting young people should be treated like Big Tobacco

Alcohol companies create, package and promote products aimed at young people. These companies use approaches similar to those of tobacco companies; they have close links with the tobacco industry; and while they target young people they should have the same pariah status.

In an Editorial in the April issue of Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Professor Mike Daube from Curtin University, explores differences and similarities between the alcohol and tobacco industries and their approaches to marketing and public policy.

“Children and young people are drinking at earlier ages, and drinking to get drunk”, he said. “Yet alcohol companies develop and promote products that will be attractive to young people, with massive marketing campaigns to which they are heavily exposed, ranging from television to social media.”

Professor Daube outlines some of the close links between alcohol and tobacco companies, noting that major alcohol companies in the Australian market have tobacco industry leaders on their Boards, while tobacco company Boards include leading alcohol industry figures. He adds, “it would be surprising if there were not some discussion about common approaches and concerns.”

He notes that there are many responsible companies and individuals in the alcohol industry, but “companies that play an active role in promoting the binge drinking culture are not socially responsible.”

Professor Daube concludes that “alcohol companies that develop and market products for the youth market are no better than their tobacco counterparts (and) should not be permitted any role in the development of public policy…… companies engaged in the youth alcohol market should be treated with as much disdain as the tobacco industry.”