knowledge | 4 July 2019 |

Last Call for Some Drinks Advertising Practices

Significant changes to Irish law and practice applicable to the advertising of both alcohol and non-alcohol product variants such as alcohol-free beer and wine (“Non-Alcoholic Drinks”) will begin to take effect later this year.

In November 2018, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris signed an order to commence 23 sections of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 (the “Act”) on a phased basis. The Act, which received strong support within the Oireachtas, legislates for alcohol as a public health priority. Minister Harris commented “[t]his is the first time in the history of our State that we have endeavoured to use public health legislation to address issues in respect of alcohol. It is, therefore, a ground-breaking measure.”  The Act implements a wide range of measures regarding availability, price, marketing, labelling and advertising of alcohol.

From 12 November 2019:

  • under section 14 of the Act, alcohol advertising in certain places, including at public transport stops, in or on train or bus stations, or public service vehicles and within 200 metres of a school, a playschool or a local authority playground, will be prohibited;
  • under section 17 of the Act, children’s clothing that promotes alcohol will also be prohibited; and
  • under section 20 of the Act, alcohol advertising in a cinema will be prohibited except immediately before films with an 18 certificate or in licensed premises within a cinema.

Under section 22, from 12 November 2020, in mixed retail outlets alcohol products and advertising must be confined to one of the following:

(i) an area separated from the rest of the outlet by a 1.2 metre high barrier;

(ii) units in which alcohol products are not visible up to 1.5 metres height; or

(iii) up to three units that can be a maximum of 1 metre wide by 2.2 metres high.

In addition, alcohol products can be stored out of sight in a unit behind the counter.

From 12 November 2021:

  • under section 15 of the Act, there will be a prohibition on alcohol advertising in or on a sports area during a sporting event, at events aimed at children or in which the majority of participants or competitors are children; and
  • under section 16 of the Act, alcohol sponsorship of events aimed at children, or in which the majority of participants or competitors are children and events involving driving or racing motor vehicles will be prohibited.

However, at the time of writing, no commencement orders have been made in relation to other important sections of the Act, including: 

  • section 11 which relates to minimum unit pricing, a key component of the Act, which requires a further Government decision;
  • section 12 which relates to labelling of alcohol products and notices in licensed premises. The introduction of labels will have to be notified to the EU before its commencement and there will be a three-year lead-in period after this provision is commenced;
  • section 13 which relates to the content of alcohol advertisements. This will require that such advertisements must contain certain warnings including the direct link between alcohol and fatal cancers; and
  • section 18 relating to alcohol advertisements in a publication which is defined as “a newspaper, magazine or any other periodical, brochure or leaflet and includes a supplement or insert to, of cover of the publication”.

Advertisements for alcoholic drinks (and any drinks marketed as mixers for alcoholic drinks) are also required to adhere to the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications in Ireland (the “ASAI Code”), which applies to all commercial advertisements, regardless of the medium in which they appear. This is currently in its 7th edition and will likely be updated to take account of the provisions of the Act.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks

To reflect the increased availability and popularity of Non-Alcoholic Drinks, the ASAI has developed new guidance in relation to advertising of non-alcohol product variants to assist companies in the development of their advertising campaigns and marketing communications for these products.

The key points of the new guidelines are as follows:

  • it should be made very clear at the start and throughout the advertising that the product is non-alcoholic;
  • advertising in children’s media and close to schools must be avoided and advertising should not appeal to minors in either placement or content;
  • anyone depicted in the advertising shown drinking or playing a significant role should be aged over 25 and should appear to be over 25; and
  • advertisements for Non-Alcoholic Drinks should not later be repurposed for the advertising of other (alcoholic) variants of drinks under the same brand in the Irish market.

Conclusion

Manufacturers and advertisers of both alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Drinks should take care to ensure that any advertising or marketing carried out complies with the Act, the ASAI Code and all ASAI guidelines.

This briefing is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.

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