A Public Health Lecturer at the University of West London and a consultant on a number of Public Health/Health Promotion projects in Ghana, Dr. Da Costa Aboagye, has appealed to the Ghanaian media to adhere to the Food and Drug Authority’s (FDA)’s restrictions on the advertisement of alcoholic products, as a good public intervention aimed at protecting the health of the entire population.
According to Dr. Aboagye, the benefits to be derived from the restriction of the adverts outweigh the profits which would be earned by the media outlets if they ignore the directive.
He questioned media houses which have failed to comply with the regulations in the light of existing laws, and the lack of proper enforcement on the part of FDA till now.
“The advertising of alcohol is failing to protect children, and those exposed to alcohol marketing start drinking younger and drink more. And this shows just how many of our children are being exposed to alcohol marketing, with an even bigger impact on those children with an interest in radio morning shows and sports,” Dr. Aboagye told Citi News.
“Children get bombarded with pro-drinking messages when they turn on the TV and radio channels, thus the existing media practices on alcohol advertisement fail to protect them.
“The public share my concerns, which is why we need urgent action from the enforcement team of FDA to make sure media outlets and alcohol companies strictly comply with the restrictive advertisement on alcohol, and media houses who flout the law are dealt with according to the law. Dr Aboagye stated.
’15 years in jail’
The Food and Drugs Authority [FDA], effective 1st January 2018, banned advertisements in the form of jingles and Live Presenter Mentions (LPMs) of alcoholic beverages in the media before 8:00pm.
The FDA’s current guidelines for the Advertisements on Foods (Section 3.2.6) and specifically the requirements for advertisements of alcoholic beverages, states that: “Radio and Television advertisements shall not be aired between the hours of 06:00 am and 20:00.”
However, lax enforcement of this regulation has seen alcoholic beverages advertised at all times of the day.
According to the Public Relations Officer of the FDA, James Lartey, persons who are found to be flouting the directive could face prison terms of up to 15 years as well as a fine of about 7, 500 cedis.
He stated that the move had become necessary because of the rise in the number alcohol ads during the day, enticing minors to try these beverages, and ultimately affecting their health.
“Currently, we have looked at the level of alcohol consumption in the media, it is very bad. And I think the earlier we bring some stringent measures the better. So we feel that this is an attempt to actually enforce that aspect of the regulation,” he said.
Dr. Aboagye described the move by the FDA as “gallant and brave”, and advised the Authority not to be pressured to abandon the restrictive ban on alcohol marketing before 8:00pm.
He advised the government to go a step further to take note of the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to countries on increasing the legal age of drinking and purchasing of alcoholic beverages.
Dr. Aboagye pointed out that countries such as France, Norway, Russia, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, have banned alcohol advertising on television and billboards, and urged the FDA to include billboards whilst supporting a call for government to increase the drinking age to 21.
According to him, if before the ages of 25 years, the human brain is still undergoing development, then there is the need to strictly regulate the alcohol industries to protect the young people.
“The young people less than 25 years old are more prone to risk-taking behaviours like the use of psychoactive substances leading to addiction and the reason why young people 25 years and below are predominantly vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse,” he stated.