Italian Alcohol Advertising Regulation and Enforcement

By Beccaria, Franca | Contemporary Drug Problems, April 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Italian Alcohol Advertising Regulation and Enforcement


Beccaria, Franca, Contemporary Drug Problems


Drinking portrayals and alcohol advertising are common in popular media and young people are highly exposed to them. Although some studies found that exposure to alcohol advertising is related to increases in drinking among youth (Saffer & Dhaval, 2003; Unger, Schuster, Zogg, Dent & Stacy 2003; Saffer, 2000; Pirisi, 2000; Austin & Knaus, 2000), other studies produced mixed and inconclusive findings (Ellickson, Collins, Hambarsoomians & McCaffrey 2005; Flemming, Thorson & Atkin 2004; Saffer, 2002).

In their recent economic analysis Snyder & Dave (2006) find that alcohol advertising-the majority of which is aimed at consumers of beer and liquor, not wine-"has a positive effect" on whether youth drink at all and on how much young people imbibe. The relationship is especially pronounced for underage female drinkers.

Recent longitudinal research and studies that used techniques to control for reciprocal effects suggest that exposure to, attention to, and liking of alcohol advertising may influence children and adolescents' drinking beliefs and behaviors (Grube & Waiters, 2005).

Other studies point out the relationship of alcohol advertising and consumption styles, looking at the values conveyed in ads contents and at the culture they express. The alcohol industry tries to find new consumption situations for Italian people, outside the well-provided mealtime table. Advertising seems to be able to capture some aspects of the social reality (e.g. female and young people drinking) and to exclude others (a nourishing style) (Beccaria, 2001a).

Even if in Italy the consumption of alcoholic beverages is still strongly integrated into daily life as well as part of social life (Allamani, Cipriani & Prina 2006), it is important to note, in recent years, a progressive internationalization of consumption, with a consequent reduction of wine consumption as part of everyday life, in favor of a greater concentration of drinking on the weekend and the growing importance of alcoholic drinks which are not typically Italian (Beccaria, 1997). In the process of transition from a "wet" drinking culture to a new model of drinking, "damp drinking," advertising can participate actively, as one of the agents, in the process of redefining consumption patterns. This could be particularly true regarding the transmission of a positive image of drinking styles among children. They are every day "bombarded" by hundreds of advertisements without the kind of filter that earlier was represented by alcohol socialization in the family context.

The necessity of an increasing attention to the effects of alcohol marketing on a specific target, children and young people, finds support in recent studies on alcohol and youth in Europe: the Health Behavior in School-aged Children (HBSC) study (Currie, Roberts, Morgan, Smith, Settertobulte, Samdal et al. 2004)-and the ESPAD study-European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Hibell, Andersson, Bjarnasson, Ahlstrom, Balakireva, Kokkevi et al., 2004). The patterns of alcohol consumption reveal that frequent drinking and drunkenness are increasing in most European countries, even if strong differences among drinking cultures still exist.

In this article I examine how content regulations work on Italian alcohol advertising and promotion in different media channels (TV, radio, magazines, billboards, and environments attended by adolescents), taking into account the complexity of the nexus between alcohol marketing, and advertising in particular, and alcohol consumption.

Alcohol advertising regulation in Europe and in Italy

European Union (EU) regulation on alcohol marketing

The expression "alcohol policy" has been introduced into the English language quite recently and has its origin in Scandinavian thinking (Room, 1999:11). To speak of alcohol policies makes sense, in Room's opinion, only in those cultural circumstances where alcohol is widely problematized on a social level, so there is emphasis on the dimension of alcohol as a problem and not as one of the many aspects of economic and social life. …

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