Alcohol industry 'grooming' with social media

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2013

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Children are being groomed by alcohol companies years before they reach the legal drinking age, through advertising on Facebook, researchers say.

The social media website has also become so entrenched in young people's drinking culture that they can no longer distinguish advertising, Massey University health psychology associate professor Antonia Lyons said.

A 2011 survey on drinking culture, involving more than 150 people aged between 18 and 25, found most were "drinking to get drunk".

Dr Lyons said checking Facebook was part of their everyday routine and it was used as a platform to organise social events, many of which revolved around drinking. It was also used to share alcohol-related updates and photos with friends.

This information, combined with bar and alcohol brand pages, had normalised the culture of intoxication among young people, she said.

When participants were asked about bar and alcohol brand pages, they did not realise that these were a form of marketing.

These pages also had games and giveaways that appealed to children and teenagers, Dr Lyons said. "What they're doing is grooming the next generation of drinkers."

Once someone "likes" a page, they get regular updates, which can be seen by friends on their newsfeed. Their profile information is also shared with the page creator.

"They've already got this interaction with these consumers and they're also getting their profile information so, as soon as they're 18, they can be directly targeted."

Dr Lyons will speak at the Perils of Alcohol Marketing Conference in Wellington today. The event has been organised by Alcohol Action NZ.

National Addiction Centre director Doug Sellman will also speak about the need to dismantle all alcohol marketing and sponsorship of sport and events over five years - one of many Law Commission recommendations snubbed by the Alcohol Reform Bill.

"It would immediately have an impact on the deception that is put out about alcohol," he said.

"About $400,000 a day is spent telling New Zealanders that this is a necessary product for success and happiness. We're all a little bit brainwashed in the same way the population used to think having a cigarette in your mouth was a sign of success and happiness."

The "glamorous" messages around tobacco had been replaced by health messages, and alcohol needed to follow suit, Professor Sellman said.

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- The Dominion Post

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