NUI Galway Research Finds Irish Children are Exposed to Large Volumes of Alcohol Marketing

Nov 26 2015 Posted: 10:45 GMT

• More than 90% of children reported that they were exposed to traditional, or offline, alcohol advertisements in the week prior to the study and more than half saw four or more alcohol advertisements per day
• 77% of the children reported exposure to alcohol marketing online
• 61% of children reported that they owned alcohol branded merchandise

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, has said the introduction of legislation regulating alcohol marketing is a child protection issue.

A study carried out by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, commissioned by Alcohol Action Ireland, found that Irish children are exposed to large volumes of alcohol marketing, which increases their likelihood of drinking alcohol and engaging in risky drinking behaviour.

Dr Michal Molcho, of the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, said their findings indicate that there is widespread exposure to alcohol marketing among children aged 13 and upward.

“We found that almost all children reported seeing or hearing a traditional or off-line advertisement for alcohol drinks, while 77% were exposed to online marketing and 61% reported that they own alcohol-branded merchandise.”

Dr Molcho said that increased exposure to alcohol marketing increased the chances of children to report drinking, binge drinking, and drunkenness.

“These findings clearly indicate that the more intense the exposure, the greater the risk of drinking alcohol and engaging in risking drinking behaviours. Given that these findings echo previous studies, coupled with the vulnerability of young people to alcohol, there is a clear need for immediate action on alcohol marketing regulation.”

Dr Patrick Kenny, School of Marketing, Dublin Institute of Technology, said the study provides a snapshot illustrating how little protection is currently afforded to Irish children from alcohol marketing.

“The bottom line is that the current regulatory system does not protect children from exposure to alcohol marketing and this failure is associated with increased consumption. In a very real sense, these children are victims of society’s failure to protect them and creating an environment where children are free from alcohol marketing is a children’s rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

Dr Kenny said that digital alcohol marketing, and in particular social media marketing, is now a central element of the marketing communications mix and needs to be regulated.

“Digital marketing allows for more effective targeting of consumers and the interactive nature of this communication makes it arguably more effective than traditional passive advertising methods. It is worth noting that digital marketing operates largely below the radar of policy makers because they do not form part of the target audience, thus making digital marketing significantly harder to monitor or regulate.”

Conor Cullen, Head of Communications and Advocacy, Alcohol Action Ireland, said it is vital that we legislate to regulate alcohol marketing, which sees Irish children continuously exposed to positive, risk-free images of alcohol and its use, which are far removed from the reality of the situation.

“Alcohol use is a serious risk to children and young people’s health and wellbeing. Far from being a rite of passage, drinking alcohol may well serve to delay the development of vital coping skills, project young people into risky situations and lay the ground-work for future physical and mental health difficulties.”

Mr Cullen said we need to protect children from alcohol marketing if we are serious about supporting them to make healthy choices now and in the future.

“The forthcoming Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is an important first step in this regard and will finally move us away from the existing systems of self-regulation governing alcohol marketing. These systems have proved completely ineffective in terms of protecting children from exposure to alcohol marketing, which is such a powerful and sophisticated influence on their drinking behaviour and expectations.”

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