Does advertising of alcohol products influence consumption?

Siegfried N, Pienaar DC, Ataguba JE, Volmink J, Kredo T, Jere M, Parry CD. Restricting or banning alcohol advertising to reduce alcohol consumption in adults and adolescents. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Nov 4;2014(11):CD010704. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010704.pub2. PMID: 25369459; PMCID: PMC6486123.

Alcohol ranks as the fifth leading risk factor for global disability-adjusted life years, prompting consideration of restricting or banning alcohol advertising as a potential measure to mitigate individual and population-level risks associated with alcohol consumption. Despite alcohol's significant impact, a systematic review to date has not explored the effectiveness, potential harms, and cost-effectiveness of this intervention.

A study conducted by Siegfried et al. (2014) aimed to assess the benefits, harms, and costs of restricting or banning alcohol advertising in any format compared to no restrictions or counter-advertising, specifically focusing on its impact on alcohol consumption in both adults and adolescents. The search encompassed various databases and sources and the inclusion criteria involved a range of study types.

The results, however, revealed limited evidence, with only one small randomised controlled trial (RCT) and three interrupted time series (ITS) studies included. The RCT indicated that exposure to low-alcohol content movies and neutral commercials correlated with reduced alcohol consumption among young men. However, the evidence quality was deemed very low due to biases, indirectness, and imprecision.

The ITS studies, examining the effects of advertising bans, yielded inconsistent results, with a meta-analysis suggesting a non-significant increase in beer consumption following the ban. The study concludes that there is insufficient robust evidence either supporting or opposing the implementation of alcohol advertising restrictions. It emphasises the need for well-monitored research programs to comprehensively evaluate outcomes over time, fostering a more substantial evidence base to guide recommendations in this regard.