A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the increasing use of sophisticated online marketing techniques for alcohol and the need for more effective regulation. It shows that young people and heavy drinkers are increasingly targeted by alcohol advertising, often to the detriment of their health.

“Reducing the harm from alcohol – by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion” is the first report from WHO to detail the full extent of how alcohol is being marketed across national borders – often by digital means – and in many cases regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment in receiving countries.

Worldwide, three million people die each year as a result of harmful use of alcohol – one every 10 seconds – representing about 5% of all deaths. A disproportionate number of these alcohol-related deaths occur among younger people, with 13.5% of all deaths among those who are 20–39 years of age being alcohol-related.

“Alcohol robs young people, their families and societies of their lives and potential,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Yet despite the clear risks to health, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than for other psychoactive products. Better, well enforced and more consistent regulation of alcohol marketing would both save and improve young lives across the world.”

The report concludes that governments need to integrate comprehensive restrictions or bans on alcohol marketing, including its cross-border aspects, into public health strategies. It highlights key features and options for the regulation of cross-border marketing of alcohol and stresses the need for strong collaboration between states in this area.

Drinking alcohol is causally linked to an array of health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence; major non-communicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases; and injuries and deaths resulting from violence and road traffic crashes.


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