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‘No evidence’ ad bans reduce drinking

There is no evidence “for or against” alcohol advertising restrictions reducing consumption, according to a review by a drugs and alcohol research group.

The study found that previous attempts at research have not been scientifically rigorous or able to give conclusions (Photo: db)

The research, carried out by Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group, found that no previous study has been at all thorough enough to reach credible scientific conclusions.

Its advice to governments that are considering implementing alcohol advertising bans is to implement the ban in a research environment and monitor the effects over time to build an evidence base.

Despite the lack of evidence, the perception that reduced alcohol advertising will see a lasting and definite reduction in dangerous alcohol consumption is still prevalent.

The Cochrane Drugs and Alcohol Group only found four studies that looked at the effects of restriction or banning of alcohol advertising, according to the Wine Information Council.

One was a small trial that evaluated drinking behaviour in 80 young men in the Netherlands exposed to movies with varying degrees of visible alcohol.

The other three studies measured changes in the general public, measured at various points before, during and after a change in alcohol advertising policy.

The results of these studies could not show a clear effect either for or against the banning or restricting of advertising of alcoholic beverages.

In the small Netherlands trial, young men who watched movies with low-alcohol content drank less than men who watched movies with high-alcohol content. Young men exposed to commercials with a neutral content drank less compared to those exposed to commercials for alcohol. However, as the Cochrane Group emphasises, the trial was only one-and-a-half hours long, so it is not known how long beyond the trial such effects would last.

The three other studies showed inconsistent and negligible results.

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