Health experts have called for government regulation of social media advertising after a report revealed that children were exposed to a wide range of inappropriate messages about alcohol on websites such as YouTube and Facebook.
The latest report from the Alcohol Advertising Review Board shows that in the six months from March, 105 complaints were made about alcohol advertisements with social media and online content accounting for almost a quarter of the complaints.
One complaint received by the AARB was over concerned a Thirsty Camel bottle shop Facebook page, which contained cartoon images and the text “I wish I could trade my heart for another liver. Then I could drink more and care less”.
Professor Fiona Stanley, chairwoman of the AARB, said some advertisers adapted or removed their advertisements in response to the board’s recommendations but others, including Thirsty Camel, did not. act to moderate their content.
“Online media are being increasingly used by alcohol companies to market their products,” she said.
“They must know that children and young people have ready access to virtually anything on the internet, and notional age-related barriers are not effective.”
Beam Global, the company responsible for the Jim Beam brand attracted 15 complaints over the six month period for its television and online promotions.
The company’s branded electronic skateboards and the Jim Beam on Campus promotion were criticised for targeting children and students.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Geoff Dobb said alcohol companies were taking advantage of the lack of regulation on the internet to endorse their products to children.
“Using Facebook and YouTube looks like a cynical strategy by alcohol companies to bypass regulation and promote their products to children and young people,” he said.
“This is profit at the expense of social awareness and responsibility.”
Director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth Mike Daube said the report confirmed that self-regulation was not working in the alcohol advertising industry.
“We urge governments to regulate, to reduce promotions to which young people are exposed, particularly now through social media,” he said.