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25/01/2012

Question from MEP: Alcohol marketing and advertising and the use of social networks

Question from Philippe Juvin (PPE)

According to the report ‘Does marketing communication impact on the volume and patterns of consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially by young people — a review of longitudinal studies’, adopted by the Scientific Group of the European Alcohol and Health Alliance in February 2009, alcohol advertising has an impact on young people’s drinking behaviour (http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_determinants/life_style/alcohol/Forum/docs/science_o01_en.pdf), including an uptake of drinking among non-drinking young people and an increase in the consumption of drinking young people.

In light of this new study on the impact of alcohol advertising on youth drinking patterns, and the fact that social networks are predominantly used by young people, the ever closer ties being formed between social networks and alcohol brands for advertising and marketing purposes (as demonstrated by the reinforced advertising partnership between Facebook and Diageo, the world’s leading drink business, in September 2011) raise legitimate concerns in terms of the protection of young people’s health.

1. How does the Commission plan to protect young people from online alcohol advertising and marketing, taking into consideration the development of social networks?

2. Does the Commission intend to prevent the targeting of young people by online alcohol marketing and advertising through social networks? If so, how?

3. Is the Commission planning to propose a legislative initiative on this issue?

Answer given by Mr Dalli on behalf of the Commission

The Audiovisual Media Services Directive(1) prohibits the targeting of alcohol advertising to minors on television, including television and the Internet. For other forms of online communication such as social media, the Commission encourages self-regulation by Internet service providers and alcohol producers.

Some social media providers implement on a voluntary basis policies which prohibit the targeting of alcohol advertisements to young people. Leading alcohol producers implement on a voluntary basis codes of conduct which prohibit the targeting of alcohol advertising in any media to under-age youngsters (the minimum age for selling or serving alcoholic beverages being 18 years in most EU countries).

Protecting children and young people is a key priority of the EU alcohol strategy(2). In the context of the Alcohol and Health Forum, a platform set up to step up voluntary action, strengthened their codes of commercial communication. Progress includes a move towards not advertising in media where minors make up over 30 % of the audience. Some alcohol producers are also extending their codes of conduct for alcohol advertising to digital media, including social media.

While the Commission has no plans for regulatory action in this area, it follows closely the performance of self-regulatory approaches. The Commission has recently launched a study to assess young people's exposure to alcohol advertising in audiovisual and online media, including a case study focused on social network media. The results will be available in 2012.

(1)

Directive 2007/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2007 amending Council Directive 89/552/EEC (OJ L 332/27, 18.12.2007).

(2)

Communication from the Commission of 24 October 2006, ‘An EU strategy to support Member States in reducing alcohol-related harm’, COM(2006)625 final, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/com/2006/com2006_0625en01.pdf