Alcohol ads targeted again

The Cayman Islands government will consider the issue of whether alcohol advertising should be allowed in local media publications and ad billboards as part of the ongoing review of local liquor licensing laws, Premier Alden McLaughlin acknowledged last week.

The government decided to look at the issue following a report by the National Drug Council that revealed Cayman Islands alcohol users are getting younger and using more of the substance as well.

The legal drinking age in the Cayman Islands is 18.

Currently, Cayman’s legislation bans advertising of alcohol products in broadcast media, but not in published media, whether online or in print. It also does not ban billboard ads.

The drug council’s Joan West-Dacres said, given the government’s recent announcement that it would reopen the liquor license application process for new licensees, it is important to do something to curtail underage drinking.

“We look at reducing the availability of alcohol and tobacco [to minors], but also at [the] promoting of substances such as alcohol in our communities,” she said.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller has been an outspoken critic of alcohol ads in the local newspaper, in particular. It was an issue he raised just prior to the 2013 general election as well.

Mr. Miller suggested at one stage during the political campaign that the newspaper should be prosecuted over the liquor ads.

“I find it very difficult to believe that the increased consumption and the age they start [drinking] is not influenced by advertising,” Mr. Miller said during the LA’s finance committee last week. “I’m asking government to favorably consider some changes to the alcohol advertising.”

Mr. McLaughlin did not state the government’s position on alcohol ads one way or the other.

“A full range of views are being taken on board and how we proceed with….legislation affecting the sale of liquor,” the premier said. “We will also bear in mind the representation made by Mr. Miller and others who have the same concerns.”

The National Drug Council survey of more than 1,600 students, released in March, found use of 17 illegal or prohibited substances. The data was collected during 2012.

The report found that 40 percent of survey participants recorded using alcohol, followed by 14.6 percent who use ganja.

Almost 15 percent of survey participants said they drank during weekends. Fewer than 5 percent reported daily alcohol use. The average age of first use for alcohol was 12 years old, while around 30 percent of students reported an “early onset of use,” meaning they tried their first drink between the ages of 6 and 11.

“This pattern of drinking among youth warrants special attention because of the increase of likelihood for harmful consequences such as injury, driving while intoxicated, violence and unsafe sex,” the NDC report stated.

Cayman Compass reporter Laura Buttigieg contributed to this report.

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