Children watching cricket
Children watch the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan being played at Mohali on a big screen in Mumbai March 30, 2011. Reuters

Young people in Australia were found to be exposed to about 50 million alcohol advertisements every year when watching AFL, NRL and cricket on TV. A new study shows that 47 per cent of the advertisements appear on TV during children's daytime viewing. Moreover, an international study suggests that alcohol ads could lead children and adolescents to earlier and more problematic alcohol consumption.

Free-to-air AFL, NRL and cricket were found to have about 3,600 different alcohol ads that represent 60 per cent of all alcohol advertising in sport TV. The new findings follow up a previous study, released in August, which indicates that 87 per cent of alcohol ads on Australian free-to-air TV were in sports and appeared on daytime.

Among the three sports, AFL was found with the most alcohol advertisements of 1,942 across the year, according to the researchers from the Monash University whose study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review. Cricket follows with 941 ads and the NRL with 661.

The researchers said that children are greatly exposed to alcohol advertising between 8:30 and 9:30 pm. The three sports had a growing audience of 27 million young people, ages 0-17 years old, since 2012, and almost half are exposed to alcohol advertising before 8:30 pm.

"What was striking was the extent of children's exposure because of the clause allowing alcohol advertising in daytime sport,” said Dr. Sherilene Carr, lead author of the study, in a press release. Alcohol advertising is banned in every other TV genre due to its harmful impact to children, “so why is sport exempt? It just doesn't make sense," she added.

The Australian Research Council, Australian National Preventative Health Agency and VicHealth funded the study in an effort to suggest changes to the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice to prevent children's exposure to alcohol advertising to increase in sport TV.

However, Kerry O'Brien, the study’s lead associate professor, said that they can’t expect the alcohol industry to protect young people's health as it only aims to increase sales and consumption of alcohol. The AFL, NRL and cricket management “could care more than they apparently do.”

The researchers also suggest changes to the current regulations to remove alcohol advertising during daytime viewing for sports and before 9:30 pm. The idea is to help reduce the exposure of children and adolescents to alcohol advertising and prevent its possible negative impacts.

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