Teenage binge drinkers are being encouraged and targeted by the new ways alcohol giants are advertising on social media like Facebook and Twitter – and tighter regulations are needed, a West health expert has warned.
Who are these youngsters?
The Bath University professor teamed up with colleagues in New Zealand to research how 18 to 25 year olds responded to online marketing of drinks brands, and said the online marketing “encourages a culture of intoxication – or extreme drinking” among young adults.
So the "teenage binge drinkers" are adult men and women who are legally allowed to buy and consume alcohol. They are perfectly legitimate targets for advertising and this research is therefore irrelevant. There is nothing to see here.
Mention of Bath University should arouse the spider sense of regular readers. Sure enough, the erstwhile UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies is behind it. In a flashing neon light example of the slippery slope in action, the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies has renamed itself the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. See how it works yet?
This particular piece of policy-based evidence is not available online but Bath University's Policy Brief (a telling name) gives a flavour...
Alcohol marketing is pervasive across social media, taking a variety of forms, such as branded smartphone apps that indicate how to “reach a state of pure inebriation” with the least calories or the lowest cost.
I've never heard of that app and I doubt many people have. Nor have I ever noticed that alcohol marketing is pervasive on social media, despite me actively following a few booze companies on Twitter. By contrast, I have noticed that spurious, politically motivated research designed to curtail our freedoms and pick our pockets is absolutely endemic.
As with anything on the internet, if you look for alcohol companies and pubs online, you'll find them and if you express an interest in them on Facebook - as this researcher obviously has - they will find you because of targetted marketing, but that does not make it "pervasive". But even if it was pervasive, we are - let's say it again - dealing with grown adults so who cares?
The regulation of alcohol marketing should include new media and digital marketing
Er, it does. See the Advertising Standards Authority...
The UK advertising rules for alcohol are amongst the strictest in the world. The rules are based upon evidence that points to a link between alcohol advertising and people’s awareness and attitudes to drinking. Accordingly the rules, independently enforced by the ASA, were significantly tightened in 2005 and were again re-evaluated and subject to full public consultation in 2009.
The stringent rules, which apply across all media and are mandatory, place a particular emphasis on protecting young people; alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by reflecting youth culture or by linking alcohol with irresponsible behaviour, social success or sexual attractiveness.
See also the Portman Group's code of conduct (PDF). Maybe do a bit of homework next time, eh?
However, it seems that the temperance lobby's concerns about Facebook go beyond mere marketing to adults...
Young people routinely tell and re-tell drinking stories online, share images depicting drinking, and are exposed to often intensive and novel forms of alcohol marketing.
If twenty-somethings want to tell drinking stories and put up photos of themselves having fun in a nightclub then that is none of your damn business. Judging by the only two excerpts from the research featured in the 'policy briefing', that is exactly what these wowsers want to stamp out...
Krystal: oh yeah, if you don’t really remember what happened the night before, like you will see a photo and it will trigger your memory and then you will remember what happened. Maori group; 2 males, 2 females
Lo: It's memories as well and all your friends are out together on the piss and you do have fun. So you take photos and some of them will be funny photos, and you'll just look at them and crack up and go oh my gosh, do you remember when you were that wasted? [laughing] European group; 4 females
Yeah. And. So. What?
These sites reinforce the idea that drinking is about fun, pleasure, socialising and bonding.
Overall, the research finds that online alcohol marketing contributes to pro-alcohol environments and encourages drinking amongst young adults, operating as what have been termed ‘intoxigenic digital spaces’.
Look, Facebook was founded in 2004 when alcohol consumption in the UK was at a 90 year high. It's been falling ever since amongst every age group and particularly amongst young people so take your "intoxigenic digital spaces" and never darken my doorstep with your prurient nonsense again.