Friday, June 15, 2018

Alcohol Marketing in India #enoughNCDs

Alcohol Marketing in India: #enoughNCDs 
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy identifies the importance of reducing the impact of marketing, particularly on young people and adolescents, as an important consideration in reducing harmful use of alcohol.It has been observed that alcohol use has escalated as one of the leading risk factors for global burden of disease.  
The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Amendment Bill, in force September 8, 2000, completely prohibits cigarette and alcohol advertisements.  However, it is evident that we are living in a media dark era. The industry circumvents the bans on advertising by surrogate advertising, and the images in alcohol advertising have changed from voluptuous pin-ups (targeting the traditional market of middle-aged male consumers) to depictions of a ‘good life’, aimed clearly at women and youth.
This is also an era of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, where the promotion of content by an alcohol brand is still a gray area and many alcohol brands aim at building a community instead of straight off plugging the alcohol.  It’s important that both the media and celebrities take into consideration the impact of the product before they’d decide to endorse or promote it. There are celebrities who do that and who receive much praise, like movie stars Ranbir Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Singer Shaan, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar who turned down alcohol and tobacco brands. These sportsmen and other celebrities are true role models who put the well being of their fans and society before their own wallets and bank accounts. 

The ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament has more liquor ads than one can count. There are ads for Seagram’s Royal Stag, Royal Challenge, Signature, Black & White and why (ASCI) Advertising Standards Council of India  turning a blind eye to this charade of surrogate ads that are openly selling liquor, and nothing else?
One of the leading liquor brands was recently associated with a five-part web series on four friends trying to launch a startup. With more than 10 million viewers, the show went viral in the startup community, and is currently rated 9.7 on IMDB. By producing the show, the brand avoided surrogate advertising and revolutionized liquor advertising in India. The events sponsored by liquor brands — from music festivals to tasting sessions to sports events — have only grown bigger over the past decade. One of the Vineyards in India reveals they had 250,000 visitors at its different facilities in Nasik last year and they conducted 45,000 tastings at the vineyard. 

Consumption of alcohol in India has expanded at an average of 8.9% annually in the past six years, reaching an estimated $22 billion (1.46 trillion rupees) last year. India is the 3rd largest liquor market in the world, with an overall retail market size of $35 billion per annum. A global study by Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that alcohol consumption in India has risen by 55% over a period of 20 years, from 1992 to 2012.With the minimum drinking age varying from 18 to 25 across states, India had approximately 485 million people of legal drinking age in 2013. This is more than the population of the United States and Mexico combined. Another 150 million are predicted to join this group by 2018. 

To address the impact of alcohol use on society, a national policy on alcohol use is needed.  The alcohol policy includes measures by the government to control supply and demand, minimize alcohol-related harm and promote public health.  At present, India does not have a national alcohol policy. However, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has a mandate for Alcohol and Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention Policies. Another central concern that the new drug demand reduction policy must address, I think, is the aggressive push by the global alcohol industry to recruit our children and youth as loyal consumers. Therefore, special measures and programs to prevent underage alcohol use and to reduce overall per-capita alcohol consumption in India is the need of the hour, as Big Alcohol marketing strategies are becoming ever more aggressive and pervasive. Also, alcohol-related harm should be urgently addressed from a child rights perspective. To achieve a healthier society, harmful substances must become much less available – socially, financially, psychologically and physically. 
*Chairperson, Nada India Foundation
  Nada India Foundation

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