A total ban on alcohol advertising: Presenting the public health case

Charles Parry, Nadine Harker Burnhams, Leslie London


Evidence from burden of disease and economic costing studies amply indicate that the public health burden from hazardous and harmful use of alcohol in South Africa warrants drastic action. Evidence that banning alcohol advertising is likely to be an effective intervention is reflected in WHO strategy documents on non-communicable diseases and harmful use of alcohol. Studies on young people furthermore support arguments refuting the claim that advertising only influences brand choice. Given the weakness of relying on industry self-regulation, the government is considering legislation to ban alcohol advertising, resulting in heated debate. Tobacco control and studies investigating the effect of alcohol advertising bans on consumption and alcohol-related deaths point to the effectiveness of such action – ideally supplemented by other policy interventions. Arguments against an advertising ban include possible communication sector job losses, but these are likely to have been exaggerated. Banning alcohol advertising will necessitate greater scrutiny of digital media, satellite television and merchandising to reduce the likelihood of subverting the ban.

Authors' affiliations

Charles Parry, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Unit, Medical Research Council, and Department of Psychiatry, Stellenbosch University, Tygerberg, Western Cape

Nadine Harker Burnhams, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Research Unit, Medical Research Council

Leslie London, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, and Western Cape Department of Health

Full Text



Alcohol; Advertising

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(7):602-604.

Article History

Date submitted: 2012-04-24
Date published: 2012-05-28

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