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A study found some beverages, advertised as non-alcoholic, contained alcohol levels as high as 2.8% Alamy Stock Photo
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Alcohol Action Ireland calls for clampdown on '0%' drink ads as WHO labels it 'grey area'

Alcohol Action Ireland believe that the adverts breach the Public Health Alcohol Act which bans certain types of alcohol advertising.

ALCOHOL ACTION IRELAND has recommended that the government ban big alcohol brands from “brand sharing”, something which allows zero alcohol beers to use the same branding as their alcoholic alternatives.

The advocacy group, who campaign to reduce alcohol harm, believe that the adverts breach the Public Health Alcohol Act which aims to reduce alcohol use in Ireland by 20% and bans certain types of alcohol advertising.

Alcohol Action says in a recent report, that the adverts are in contravention with the advertising section of the act, which describes advertising as “any form of commercial communication with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting an alcohol product”.

The PHAA says that advertising includes “a statement of the name of the manufacturer or important of an alcohol product, or the name of any brand of alcohol product”.

Additionally, the act says that any publication “trade description” or “trademark, emblem, marketing image or logo” is counted as advertising.

Alcohol Action believes that alcohol brands circumvent these laws by advertising their brandings, trademarks and logos attached and adding that it is a non-alcoholic alternative at the end of the brand.

The group is also concerned that brand sharing could lead to children seeing people drinking what looks like alcohol, due to the same branding, and will “be conditioned to think differently about when and where it is appropriate to drink alcohol”.

Responding to Alcohol Action today, Drinks Ireland, who represent members from the Irish alcohol beverage sector, said: “The Government funded anti-alcohol lobby group is seeking again to incorrectly conflate alcohol and non-alcohol drinks which are distinct consumer offerings”.

The representative group’s director, Cormac Healy, said “It’s bizarre that Alcohol Action Ireland is trying to limit a category that is actually supporting the objective of the Public Health Alcohol Act in reducing alcohol consumption.”

Healy said Drinks Ireland “firmly believe” that zero alcohol products “offer consumers a choice that supports moderation”.

In a statement from the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland to The Journal , the authority said it must be made “very clear at the start and throughout” an advert that the product is non-alcoholic.

“[Adverts] must also avoid children’s media and proximity to school and not contain content that would appeal to children.” they added.

Healy said that the ASAI place “strict” guidelines that the industry must abide by and include rules that “make it clear that these products must be clearly distinct from alcohol variants and cannot target children”.

The ASAI says that if there is “absolutely no doubt” that the advert is for a non-alcohol product then “the depiction of activities which could be considered a risk to personal safety”  is unlikely to be considered in conflict with the ASAI codes.

A recent release from the World Health Organisation on the “public health perspective on zero- and low-alcohol beverages” found that brand sharing between alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions of drinks is documented as “a grey area”.

The WHO also highlighted that a study found some beverages, that were advertised as non-alcoholic, contained alcohol levels as high as 2.8% while drinks advertised to have low levels of alcohol had between 0.5% and 3.7%.

Alcohol Action believe this is a cause of concern because, according to the group, “there is no law preventing zero alcohol drinks being sold to under 18-year-olds,”

The group acknowledges however that retailers and vintners “generally treat such products as alcohol” regardless of the lack of legal framework yet also recommended that the government develop regulations around the sale of these products.

Drinks Ireland’s Healy said it is “disappointing” that Alcohol Action Ireland would “seek to discourage growth” in the industry and claims that their position on the matter “shows an anti-industry bias rather than an objective evidence-based view”.

Additionally, the ASAI’s code states that anyone in any adverts shown drinking should be aged over-25 or appear to be.

The ASAI said that they have “very strict” provisions in relation to the advertising of alcohol products and “developed guidance which includes that it must be clear that the products being advertised were zero alcohol products to ensure that there would be no confusion” when the products were introduced.

The WHO recommends that policy-makers should “facilitate consumer choice by standardising the labelling of NoLo (Low and Non-Alcoholic) products, and synchronising labels across different types of NoLos.”

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