The consumption of alcoholic beverages has been an integral part of Polish social tradition. It is well above the European average. This trend began during the communist era, and steadily increased through the 1980s. In 1980 the average male Pole over sixteen years of age consumed the equivalent of 16.6 liters of pure alcohol per year. Nowadays, although consumption remains higher that the EU average, it is on a downward trajectory.
Research suggests that exposure to media and alcohol marketing is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start drinking alcohol, and with increased drinking amongst drinkers. In order to protect vulnerable groups, and especially young people, against harmful exposure to alcohol marketing, an effective alcohol marketing regulation is crucial.
Content regulations could, if adequate, protect young people and adults against misleading or deceptive alcohol advertisements. When all relevant elements are addressed, content restrictions can protect young people against exposure to attractive alcohol advertising.
Alcohol advertisers always search for innovative ways to market their product. When introducing partial alcohol marketing bans, there is a danger that alcohol is advertised in media, on times or places which are not restricted. Substitution effects are limited by a comprehensive alcohol marketing ban that is integrated in an integral alcohol policy.
Alcohol advertising in Poland is subject to legislative regulations under the ‘The Act of October 26th, 1982 on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism’ which ban an advertising for wine and spirits, based on the higher content of those beverages: “advertisement and promotion in the territory of the country of any alcoholic beverage shall be prohibited, except for beer”. Therefore, only the promotion of beer is allowed on TV and radio, in cinemas, outdoor, in magazines and newspapers and by sponsoring. Additionally, beer advertising is not allowed between 6 am till 8 pm on TV, radio and in cinemas, except for sponsor messages.
Wine advertising is allowed on the internet and other new media, direct marketing, promotions from selling points (bars and restaurants) or catering industry and specialist magazines. The Polish spirit industry endorses a voluntary code which stipulates “concerning the protection of minors, that alcohol advertisements can only target persons who have the legal drinking age (with some other additional restrictions)”.
Poland has implemented the AVMSD for all media when it comes to content restrictions. The advertising for all kinds of alcoholic beverages must comply with the following requirements: ✔not to be directed to minors and under age persons or to be broadcast in programs for them; ✔not to use minors and under age as performers or, in particular, present minors and under age using these beverages; ✔the contents of the commercials must not be related to sport and physical achievements or driving vehicles; ✔not to maintain that the alcoholic beverages possess therapeutic qualities, have stimulating or sedative effect or that they solve personal problems; ✔not to encourage the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or present the abstention or the moderation in negative light; ✔not to suggest that the high alcoholic contents contributes to the good quality of the alcoholic beverages. ✔not to create impression that the using of alcohol contributes to a social or sexual success.
Volume and/or content restrictions can only be effective when adequately supported by a regulatory system. An effective regulation system should meet the following criteria: •The legal context must be supporting; there can not be any conflicting regulations on the national or international level that interfere with the alcohol marketing regulations. Like all regulations, self regulations in specific needs a clear legislative framework and enough incentives to function in an effective way. Therefore a legal backstop to support the enforcement of the restrictions should be taken into the regulatory system. A legal back stop makes it possible that when the code is offended (several times) a legal body is put in operation and to be able to sanction adequately. •An effective complaint system with easy access to and support from the public. To make sure the whole system of regulations, complaining and sanctions can be watched and monitored by third parties, the whole system should be transparent and information on these topics should be provided to the public on every stage of the process. From the evaluated regulations appears that not all Member State countries have a complaint system that is completely transparent. •Independent advertising committee: Evaluation by parties independent from commercial interests (not by adverting industry related or alcohol industry related) but by judges, public health advocates or consumer representatives. Self regulation system can only be effective when a third-party is consulted when evaluating possible breaches, else wise the code is created and abide by the same ones who monitor the compliance. This committee should in the first place protection of the public health and therefore evaluate the advertisements following the interpretation of the general public (with special regard to vulnerable groups). •Sanctions that are expected to be most effective are withdraw broadcasting rights and substantial financial penalties. Sanctions that are expected to be less effective are bad publicity or voluntary action. •Restrictions should cover the entire range of forms of marketing activities and should be updated regularly and be prepared to interact with future developments.
Volume and/or content restrictions in alcohol marketing regulations will only be effective when there is an adequate regulatory system that supports the restrictions. This regulatory system empowers the implementation of the restriction, its adherence and evaluation process.
Self regulation codes are written by the alcohol industry and mainly rely on content restrictions that do not prevent young people from being exposed to large volumes of attractive alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship. These content restrictions are often ambiguous and open to interpretation. Especially with these ‘vague’ codes, an adjudication system independent from commercial interests with the possibility of using effective sanctions is essential. More practical, the following recommendation to policy makers can be formulated: •Recognizing the effects of alcohol marketing exposure on drinking behaviour, decreasing the overall volume of alcohol marketing to which young people are exposed is desired. •To decrease the overall volume of alcohol marketing to which young people are exposed, a volume restriction on advertising, promotion and sponsorship is recommended. •In order to decrease substitution effects from restricted types of alcohol marketing to unrestricted types of alcohol marketing, a comprehensive ban is desired. •When alcohol marketing is allowed, alcohol marketing tools that are difficult to monitor (e.g. alcohol advertising on the internet) or reach many young people should be prohibited. •In media where alcohol marketing is allowed, content restrictions that address all attractive elements to young people are recommended. •To avoid ambiguous restrictions that are open to interpretation, content restrictions should address all aspects that are allowed to be used in alcohol advertisements instead of what is not permitted. •Alcohol marketing regulations should be supported by a strong supporting system that guarantees effective implementation, evaluation and adherence of the evaluation process:
- For the implementation of alcohol marketing regulations it is important that there are no conflicting regulations on the supra-national or national level and a legal backstop to support the enforcement of the restrictions.
- The evaluation process of alcohol marketing regulations will be improved by an adjudication committee independent from economic interests from the sale of alcohol or advertisements.
- The adherence to alcohol marketing regulations should be monitored regularly by the government or a board independent from economic interests of the sale of alcohol or advertisements. A mandatory pre-screening system, and a transparent complaint system and substantial financial penalties will increase the adherence to alcohol marketing regulations. •Since it is in the interest of public health, but not in the interest of the alcohol and advertising sector to restrict the volume of alcohol advertising substantially, alcohol marketing regulations embedded by law are necessary to protect vulnerable groups towards harmful exposure to alcohol marketing. •Due to the global alcohol marketing activities, harmonization of (statutory) alcohol marketing regulations at the European level is desired. This will decrease the possibilities of alcohol advertisers to reach young people by international channels.
Concerning the Consumer Protection has undergone a profound change in recent years. As Poland has introduced the European Community legal system, the scope of consumer protection has been widened and the legal control in this respect has been strengthened. The main body responsible for consumer protection is the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. In case of wine, Polish legal regulations set out safety norms. The act prevents unsafe products from entering the market and puts a number of obligations on the producers - starting with the labelling of the product, research, providing consumers with information allowing for proper assessment of potential threats, and ending with the obligation to inform the president of the Office, should the producer find out that his already marketed product is unsafe. The president of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection has a right to force withdrawal of unsafe products from the market, to investigate and make decisions about practices which violate consumer rights, and intervene, should an agreement of sale include illegal clauses, which do not comply with law or accepted practice. Such interventions are on the rise in Poland. But, apart from the state of the legal system, the other crucial factor is consumer awareness - so far, the cases of consumers suing producers have been few. It can be however expected that consumer awareness will increase - and any company willing to conduct business activity in Poland should take it into consideration.